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University of Limerick commended for ‘resilience and dynamism’ in COVID-19 response

Thu, 21 Jan 2021

University of Limerick has received a stamp of approval from the state agency responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training in Ireland.

UL was commended for its resilience and dynamism in responding to COVID-19 after successfully completing a review as part of quality checks conducted by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

Through its CINNTE cycle of reviews, QQI assesses and reports on how effectively all 19 publicly regulated higher education institutions (HEIs) are maintaining and enhancing quality in education. The reviews explore how institutions have improved their teaching, learning and research systems, and how well institutions have aligned with their own mission, quality indicators and benchmarks.

A panel of national and international experts conducted a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of UL’s quality assurance systems, highlighting examples of good practice which were seen to deliver positive benefits for students and staff, and making recommendations on areas for improvement in the coming years.

UL was praised for:     

  • its resilience and dynamism in responding to Covid-19;
  • its work to connect quality teams across the university to encourage the exchange of good practice;
  • its vibrant and inclusive community, where a clear focus is placed on the student learning experience and the accommodation of students’ needs;
  • the use of annual quality monitoring to detect flaws and areas for improvement; and
  • its provision of collaborative, comprehensive and ambitious learner supports. 

 The expert panel identified the following areas for improvement for the university:   

  • The re-analysis of its quality assurance and enhancement system to obtain a more balanced allocation of responsibilities and ensure greater engagement and ownership across the university. 
  • The inclusion of a clear timeline with well-defined goals in its adapted strategic plan to ensure that its progress can be monitored, and its impact measured.
  • The revision of its Strategic Plan to ensure a greater level of detail with clear timelines and well-defined goals so that progress and impact can be monitored and measured.
  • Work with students to identify and follow up best practice in improving the student feedback process and better communicate how feedback is implemented. 
  • The identification of key performance indicators and information for decision makers and the creation of a database to assist in quality monitoring.

Professor Bert Van Der Zwaan, president emeritus of the University of Utrecht, chaired the UL review team. He said: “The review shows that UL is a strong organization, capable of working under a lot of pressure, while continuing to deliver high quality teaching and performing well in research.

“Overall, UL is a very vibrant university, which forms a centre of activity in the region and is a catalyst for innovation. The review team recognizes that UL is still a young university with considerable scope to grow and mature and believes strongly that the university is well-positioned to realize its ambitions for the future.

“A passion for excellence is at the core of the university at all levels, and the review team noted that, over the past years, it has made great strides forward. In combination with a self-critical attitude, the review team is confident that the university will use its review experience and the review team’s recommendations for improvement to accelerate the path of progression upon which it has already embarked,” Professor Van Der Zwaan added.

President of UL, Professor Kerstin Mey, welcomed the opportunity to engage with the QQI CINNTE Review Team and the Review Team’s report.

“University of Limerick is pleased to receive the positive QQI CINNTE Review. We are grateful to the international review team for their engagement with us – focused and intense; robust, collegial and supportive – particularly under the challenging circumstances of the COVID 19 pandemic,” explained Professor Mey.

“We highly value the opportunity for continuous organisational learning arising from the reviewers’ constructive recommendations and commendations. The panel recognised our open and transparent engagement in the review process and our sustained commitment to quality assurance, enhancement and compliance.

“We look forward to addressing the suggested improvements over the next period as we review our Strategic Plan to respond to the changes in our operating contexts with the aim to foster an outstanding student experience and support, drive academic excellence and cutting-edge research with impact, deliver effective services, develop talent and fulfil our civil and civic mission.

“We thank all members of the international panel for their evaluation and feedback. We also wish to acknowledge the support of the members of the Higher Education Reviews Unit in QQI for their guidance and for facilitating a smooth review process,” she added.

QQI Chief Executive Officer, Dr Padraig Walsh noted: “The review team evaluated UL during a period of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which presented a major challenge for the university in a range of areas.

“It was gratifying to see that the review team commended the university on the resilience and dynamism it demonstrated in its response to Covid-19, delivering high quality teaching while working under considerable pressure,” he added.

Read the University of Limerick CINNTE report in full.