ISSE 2018 – what our students are telling us

Earlier this summer, NCI received the anonymised and raw Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) data collected in spring 2018 back from our students via the organisers (see for more details). As always, it makes for very interesting reading and it continues to tell us much about ourselves, both in terms of our strengths and where we still have some work to do.

The resulting Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2018 – report follows in the footsteps of previous analyses undertaken here at NCI regarding our own data; these are available at Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2017 – report and Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2016 – report respectively.

The increase in NCI’s response rate this year means that our quantitative and qualitative data is ever more representative of what our first and final year undergraduate, as well as our postgraduate taught, students are thinking and saying. This year’s report has also used similar lenses to those employed in previous years, but there is also a dedicated, if brief, section regarding what our part-time students are telling us too.

ISSE has a real role to play in Higher Education in Ireland today. Indeed, as one of our part-time students wrote: “it would be great to ensure our voice is captured”. It is even more imperative that we take what our students are saying on board and that we are seen to do so. We need to respond constructively to what our students are telling us and to continue to work in conjunction with them as partners in their education.

Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2018 – NCI report
Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2018 – report

QA network #7½: … but we don’t do things by halves!

And, just as suddenly, there is change coming. But, then why wouldn’t it, we work in a sector where the ability and willingness to adapt and learn marks us out.

Earlier today, the QA network met again for coffee and the opportunity to chew over the various professional developments taking place in our individual and/or collective worlds. We’ve been meeting for a year. Indeed, this morning’s 8:30am appointment – while forevermore QA network #7½ – follows on from a seventh meeting that actually took place last week. Not that we’re counting … or regret not being able to make it to that earlier rendezvous.

We ranged freely today around transferrable skills including the virtues of confidence, assertiveness and compromise, from evolving institutional and sectoral cultures to the place of qualifications and experience, plus a lot more besides. A blog post, or even a series of them, could never do justice to the benefits of us networking these past twelve months, though the ubiquitous and gratuitous snaps of coffee hint at multiple motives for meeting regularly.

During the course of the year, we were joined by others, and we each benefitted from sharing and learning. But, today also helped us in terms of saying goodbye, at least for now, to a stalwart or two. The QA network will hopefully continue even as its composition evolves.

How cool are we!!!
How cool are we!?!

NStEP Project 1 – 4th Team Meeting: … and indeed, dear reader, we did meet!


Held earlier this afternoon, the NStEP Project 1 – 4th Team Meeting again saw six of us in the room joined by two further members from sparqs contributing by Skype. And, once more, we covered a lot of ground, with this meeting concentrating on the following:

  1. a national update covering inter alia training opportunities, institutional analyses, project updates and expectations, increasingly concrete timelines, etc.; and
  2. an NStEP Project 1 update dealing with resource development, the setting of firmer targets, future-proofing, promotional activities, etc.

This meeting is going to prove to be a very useful bridge between one academic year and the next as it is allowing for membership to evolve while also taking on board new ideas; at the same time, we are also framing just where we are heading and how we are going to get there. So, all good!

As Project 1 – The Role and Recruitment of Class Representatives is running in parallel with (and sometimes crossing over) four further national projects, as well as the other two primary strands of NStEP work supporting student training and institutional capacity building, there is ever more clarity regarding just what it is that we have to do.

We still have to do much of it though!!! 😉

NStEP Project 1 - 4th Team Meeting
NStEP Project 1 – 4th Team Meeting

NStEP Project 1 – 4th Team Meeting: last minute preparatory work …


NStEP Project 1 – 4th Team Meeting is being held this afternoon, so there is steam coming out of various machines in an effort to make sure that everything is ready. This will include the kettle, because we did at least manage to buy the Scottish shortbread in good time, whatever about anything else.

This meeting, which is bridging the gap between the 3rd Team Meeting held towards the end of last academic year and another that is slated for early in the new academic year should allow us to gauge exactly where we are in terms of resource development and the materials we need to help create the outputs we have identified as project outcomes.

We continue to ask project colleagues to help identify effective practice where they see it, but we are also in the process of gathering feedback from class representatives in particular, students more generally, as well as staff from across the country who are actively promoting learner engagement.

We’ll see where we stand later today, but it looks like we now need to get motoring if we are going to deliver. So, as usual, no shortage of tasks to keep us busy, but the time for us to produce is fast approaching.

DRAFT NStEP Project 1 A4 flyer
DRAFT NStEP Project 1 A4 flyer

QA@NCI vacancy – Quality Officer

We have a vacancy in the Quality Office at National College of Ireland.

This is a wide-ranging and busy role and is suited to those who have a demonstrated interest in higher education policy and the enhancement of processes that support academic and administrative activities in a HE environment. 

The role involves working closely with a range of internal and external stakeholders and demands an ability to work autonomously as well as part of a project team.

To apply, please e-mail your cover letter and CV, quoting reference number: NCI 0764 and job title to: by 5pm, Monday 18th June 2018.

See NCI’s Current Vacancies pages at or LinkedIn Jobs at for more details.

National College of Ireland is an equal opportunities employer.

Athena SWAN
Athena SWAN


QA network #6: more steps forward

QA network

This morning’s QA network meeting was the sixth in a series that is now garnering a little more attention from beyond our little (but expanding) circle.

Indeed, having been mentioned in despatches earlier in the week at a Higher Education Colleges Association meeting, we were also able to welcome a fifth member to our network. Thus, a hearty welcome to Grant Goodwin of Dublin Business School, who joined today’s hosts Hibernia College and stalwarts from Griffith CollegeIICP College, and National College of Ireland. We’re growing, and not just because we’re consuming breakfast snacks with our coffee.

As previously, this informal – yet we will always insist informed! – network meeting gave us another opportunity to exchange ideas and to share information, to fly kites and to make suggestions, all in an effort to support what we do back at our own institutions while also seeking to make a contribution to sectoral thinking and developments.

Our focus today was on quality assurance ‘versus’ quality enhancement. And, although that preposition might readily be replaced by a variety of others to reflect what it is that we do and seek to do, how we view QA ‘and’/’with’/’alongside’/etc. QE, we did feel that it was a more apt description of reality than it might need to be.

We are not without direction, but we may also be seeking more room to roam, to smell the roses along the way, and to develop personally and professionally rather than just following a precisely laid down map.

Quality Enhancement, in essence the sharing of effective practice, can be seen both widely and narrowly. It can be a ‘formal process’ as, for example, in the way that Quality and Qualifications Ireland sees it, which “involves promoting and spreading effective practice in an ever-evolving quality assurance system”. It can also be informal.

Perhaps we need to invite more people for coffee?

Which direction now?
Which direction now?

NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting: … and progress begins in earnest


Held yesterday afternoon, the NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting saw six of us in the room joined by two other members contributing by phone. In doing so, we managed to cover quite a bit of ground, with the meeting concentrating, as anticipated, on two main tasks:

  1. considering what the Scottish case studies might offer us in the Irish context; and
  2. firming up the survey we wish to run involving student representatives and staff.

We also took the opportunity to start mapping out where the project is heading in the weeks and months ahead, including the tentative scheduling of an additional (even if only an informal, inquorate, etc.) meeting between now and next academic year, while also noting progress on and ideas regarding a couple of other outputs.

NStEP Project 1 - 3rd Team Meeting
NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting

One of the most substantial benefits of Project 1 – The Role and Recruitment of Class Representatives running in parallel with four other national projects is that we are learning from the advances made and stumbling-blocks encountered by our fellow NStEP project teams.

For instance, the two page document created by Project 5 – Staff Roles and Capacity Building regarding their work offers us a template for wider dissemination and promotion in relation to our own efforts. We might just have to have a go at creating something similar ourselves.

Project 5 - Staff Roles and Capacity Building
Project 5 – Staff Roles and Capacity Building

In sum, we’re learning by doing, as well as from others, but we also feel that we are progressing with the various tasks we’ve set ourselves. Stay tuned!