Quality Assurance @ National College of Ireland – an update

The QA@NCI blog is more than 18 months old, yet it is but a toddler.

Quality Assurance at NCI is run by Sinead O’Sullivan (Director of Quality Assurance) and Dr David McCarthy (Quality Officer).

This resource shares effective practices encountered, follows sectoral developments, and signposts people to resources.

Further details regarding QA@NCI can be found at https://www.ncirl.ie/Faculty-Depts/Other-Departments/Quality-Assurance.

seaport during daytime
“Dance with me into the colors of the dusk” (Ben Harper). Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com



QA network #8: a new academic year beckons

So, it’s all change, even within our tightknit group.

And yet, it’s much the same as it always is right around now with a chill in the morning air being cleared, eventually, by the warm autumn sun. A new academic year beckons, it is very much on the horizon, just as another academic year, and its various legacies – programme boards included, a nod there to one of our contingent who had to leave early today – gets tidied up.

This morning, colleagues old and new met together, which meant that there was wide representation from colleges in our sector. We’re a convivial crew. We’re open to new members joining. We drank coffee, we explored ideas, we called in favours, and we doled them out. But, as always, our little network is intent on finding solutions to common problems, as well as understanding the various individual issues that can crop up in our own institutions, that is as a result of our different natures and peculiarities.

We have also concluded once again that we have more in common than some people, even within our sector, might acknowledge, yet we are fiercely proud of our eccentricities and nuances. We might represent different institutions, histories and cultures, but we also have much that can be shared.

Our coffee cup needs refilling as 2018-19, and all that it will bring, kicks off in earnest. The QA network lives and breathes.

Refill needed!
Refill needed!

ISSE 2018 @ NCI – start spreading the news!

Over the past fortnight, we’ve been given the opportunity to present our Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) findings – drawn as they are from NCI’s 2018 quantitative and qualitative feedback – to Executive Group on August 13th and to Academic Council earlier today, August 22nd. The final version of the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE)2018 – report is now ready to share more widely.

This post is part of our ISSE dissemination process and, in particular, it helps to support both communication and evaluation/action as depicted below:

virtuous circle
How can a ‘virtuous circle’ support learner feedback processes?

ISSE cannot just be seen as an event that takes place every spring, even if this is when the promotion of this survey to students and its completion by them is a particular focus of ours. The fact of the matter is that we cannot expect our students to participate if they do not know that what they have to say is being taken on board and valued. It is not just for us to use the data; we need to be seen to use the data.

One of the pieces of qualitative feedback we received this year said: “it would be great to ensure our voice is captured”. This piece of feedback was offered by one of our part-time students, but it applies to learner feedback more generally.

For us to use, and to be seen to use, the ISSE 2018 data effectively, it is not just a matter of responding “You said, we did!”; it is not even a matter of “We said, we did!” The time has now come for something more profound, something that embodies student partnership; it has now become a matter of: “We said, we then sat down and considered the best ways forward, and then we did!”

The final version of our paper, as presented at Executive Group and Academic Council, is not meant to be the end of the conversation. It is intended to ignite it.

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 http://studentsurvey.ie/ 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