DCU Human Resources header
Human Resources
DCU Incorporation Report - header

DCU Incorporation Report 2023

Incorporation Report - Introduction header
Introduction and Context

In October 2016, three higher education institutions, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (SPD), Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI), and Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) were incorporated into Dublin City University (DCU) creating an integrated, multi-campus university. Each of the incorporating institutions had a long history as a college/institute of education with a focus on the education of teachers for primary or post-primary level schools and each had a religious affiliation – CICE to the Church of Ireland and SPD and MDI to the Roman Catholic Church.  Following Incorporation on 1 October 2016, these institutions became part of DCU – a secular institution founded in the early 1980s and established as a university in 1989.

In 2012, following a request from the Minister for Education and Skills the Higher Education Authority (HEA) established an International Review Panel to advise on the structure of initial teacher education in Ireland.  Prior to that, discussions had been taking place between DCU, SPD and MDI in relation to the potential incorporation of SPD and MDI into DCU. Both institutions had strong linkages with DCU, which had been accrediting the awards for their programmes for many years.  The review commissioned by the HEA was undertaken by a panel of international experts and chaired by Professor Pasi Sahlberg.[1] The purpose of the review was to identify possible new structures to strengthen the quality of teacher education in Ireland. This review took place in the context of a broader review of higher education in Ireland which was being undertaken to support the implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (The Hunt Report).[2] The Review Panel recommended that DCU, SPD and MDI should form one centre for teacher education and noted that a proposal to this effect had already been put forward by these institutions. The addition of CICE to the DCU Incorporation process was subsequently agreed.

DCU moved quickly to commence the Incorporation process – strongly led by the then serving Presidents in DCU and the incorporating institutions. Planning was undertaken in 2013, implementation commenced in May 2014, and the process was completed at end September 2016. On 1 October 2016 the three institutions were formally incorporated into DCU.

Following Incorporation, DCU staff and student numbers increased by a third with staff increasing from 1,200 to 1,600 and student numbers increasing from 12,000 to 16,000, approximately.

As part of the incorporation process it was agreed that a review of the programme would take place in 5 years.



[2] https://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/06/National-Strategy-for-Higher-Education-2030.pdf



Incorporation Report - Establishment of Review Group
Establishment of Review Group

In early summer 2022, the President of DCU appointed an independent Review Group to undertake a comprehensive review of the DCU Incorporation Programme and to produce a report with findings and recommendations, identifying areas which might be addressed in the future and any opportunities for further development which would ensure the continued success of the Incorporation.

The focus of the review was to assess the success of the programme in achieving its overall objectives and the impact of the Incorporation on staff and students. Specifically, it was emphasised that the academic content of programmes did not fall within the remit of the Review Group.

The Terms of Reference for the Review are attached at Appendix 1.

The members of the Review Group were:

  • Ms Mary Kerr, former Deputy CEO HEA, and Chair
  • Professor Philip Gummet, former CEO of the HE Funding Council for Wales
  • Professor Maeve Conrick, Emeritus Full Professor of French and former Principal of the College of Arts and Humanities
  • Mr Peter Kierans, former CE of the Louth Meath Education and Training Board 

Ms. Emer Mc Mahon, Senior Human Resources Manager, DCU, acted as Secretary to the Group.

The proposed deadline for the completion of the review was February 2023.



Incorporation Report - Approach Taken by Review Group header
Approach Taken by Review Group

The Incorporation Programme had five overall objectives:

  1. Establishment if Ireland's first university-based Faculty if Education with the ambition and potential for global impact.
  2. Creation of an Expanded Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences with a distinct mix of traditional and applied subjects.
  3. Transition from a single to multi-campus university to include academic and administrative units across DCU’s three academic campuses (DCU Glasnevin Campus, DCU St Patrick’s Campus and DCU All Hallows Campus).[3]
  4. Full integration of staff from the incorporating institutions to meet DCU’s organisational requirements and maximize efficiencies. 
  5. Full integration of DCU’s operations, systems and processes, thereby delivering a unified, coherent multi-campus approach for all administration and support services. 

The Review Group was requested to consider how successful DCU has been in achieving these objectives and to report thereon. The Group was also requested to identify any areas which require further consideration and/or support from the university and to advise on any new areas which the university might address in order to consolidate and enhance the Incorporation process.

The main work of the Review Group was carried out through a wide-ranging series of meetings with internal and external stakeholders.  Appendix 2 provides a full list of the individuals and groups which the Group met.  In addition, focus group meetings were held with groups of staff from across the university.  These meetings were facilitated by the DCU Learning and Organisational Unit and each of the meetings was attended by one member of the Review Group.

In addition, detailed background documentation was provided to the Review Group to inform their deliberations and all requested material was supplied.[4]


[3] The All Hallows campus was not part of the original Incorporation Programme. It was subsequently acquired to provide necessary additional space.

[4] The Review Group would like to thank Professor Emeritus Eithne Guilfoyle, former Vice-President of Academic Affairs at DCU, for making available her unpublished manuscript on the DCU Incorporation process.


Incorporation Report - Findings header


The DCU Incorporation Programme was a major and complex undertaking. The process was jointly led by the Presidents of DCU and each of the incorporating institutions and supported by their Governing Bodies and by church leaders.  The Review Group was impressed by the commitment and energy which was invested in the process by the Senior Management staff and their teams in each of the institutions. A comprehensive governance structure for Incorporation was put in place. During the Planning Phase (2013/14), a Joint Steering Group was established, consisting of the Presidents of the four institutions and chaired by a distinguished external facilitator. The Implementation Phase was subsequently overseen by an Incorporation Board which included the Presidents of the four institutions and eight other members and was chaired by the President of DCU. The Incorporation Board was supported by the external facilitator, an Incorporation Programme Manager, and a team of external consultants.

Nine programme workstreams were defined and 36 projects were organised across the nine workstreams. A sponsor from Senior Management was assigned to each of the workstreams and Project Managers and teams were put in place in each of the nine areas.  Numerous sub-groups and sub-projects were designated in the 36 project areas, with up to 300 staff from all four institutions contributing to the process. The Incorporation process commenced in 2013 and was legally implemented on 1 October 2016 (First year students from SPD and MDI were enrolled as DCU students in September 2015, one full year ahead of legal incorporation).

This was a significant achievement for the university.  The courage, vision and professionalism of all staff involved in the Incorporation is commended by the Review Group.

The findings of the Review Group in relation to the five objectives set for the Incorporation programme are discussed below.


Establishment of Ireland’s first university-based Faculty of Education with the ambition and potential for global impact.

The Institute of Education (IoE) was established in 2016 following Incorporation. It became the first university-based Faculty of Education in Ireland and one of the largest faculties in DCU.  Its 109 academic staff and 3598 students in 2016 made it the largest of its kind in Ireland, on a scale at least comparable to all but the very largest Schools of Education in the UK.  Academic staff numbers had increased to 161 and student numbers to 3932 by 2021/22.

The Institute of Education (IoE) was established in 2016 following Incorporation. It became the first university-based Faculty of Education in Ireland and one of the largest faculties in DCU.  Its 109 academic staff and 3598 students in 2016 made it the largest of its kind in Ireland, on a scale at least comparable to all but the very largest Schools of Education in the UK.  Academic staff numbers had increased to 161 and student numbers to 3932 by 2021/22.

The establishment of the IoE as a Faculty was an important step for Ireland. It reflected the clear belief within the incorporating partners, and policy-making circles more generally, that the education of teachers across all modes and levels, and the study and promotion of Education as a discipline, were high priorities for the university and the State, and that the existing pattern of provision required reform.

Within the structures of the university, the Executive Dean became a member of the Senior Management Team (SMT) and the IoE/Faculty was represented in all major decision-making fora.

Educational provision by the IoE covered the full continuum of programmes including Early Childhood, Primary, Post-Primary and Further Education courses, together with strong postgraduate offerings including Masters and Doctoral programmes.  The number of staff now assembled, the breadth of specialisms that they covered, the capacity to draw upon others in the university with cognate expertise, and the availability of a comprehensive suite of student support services, offered the prospect of qualitative as well as quantitative transformation compared with what would have been possible without Incorporation.

The incorporation of two institutions with religious affiliations to the Roman Catholic Church and one affiliated to the Church of Ireland presented particular challenges for DCU, a secular university. These required extensive discussions with church leaders, the incorporating HEIs and other stakeholders. The outcome was an innovative approach to providing religious teacher education within a pluralist secular context, while respecting the ethos and identity of the incorporating institutions.

Great courage and skill were shown by church leaders and the leaders of DCU and the incorporating institutions in developing and agreeing appropriate structures and processes. The creation within the new IoE of two Centres for Denominational Education, the Church of Ireland Centre and the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education, was key to securing buy-in from all concerned. Critical to this process was the publication in June 2014 of the document A New Vision of Education for all the Children of Ireland (Appendix 3), which set out the agreed position of all four institutions in relation to the establishment, governance and functions of the two Centres. Both Centres are supported by external Advisory Councils whose membership is nominated by the appropriate church bodies. The Councils are currently chaired by the respective Archbishops of Dublin, which gives them valuable prominence and status within the university, among their respective hierarchies and externally.

The Denominational Centres are now firmly established and appear to be working well. The Advisory Councils maintain strong relationships with their respective Denominational Centres. Representatives of both Councils spoke positively to the Review Group about the respect and support shown by DCU towards the Centres.

Each of the incorporating institutions brought particular strengths to the new Faculty. CICE, for example, had historically offered a module on Small School Teaching. Post-incorporation, the numbers of students taking this module, now co-ordinated by the Church of Ireland Centre, have increased, embracing students across all denominations and none.

Research expectations also underwent major change. Traditionally, colleges of education have had a relatively modest engagement with research, due in large part to higher teaching workloads, including the organisation and support of school placements. The increased expectation of research activity since Incorporation caused concern amongst some staff, although others welcomed it as a new opportunity.

Since Incorporation, the university has put in place significant measures to facilitate and encourage staff to develop their research competencies. By 2019 Sahlberg[5] noted evidence of a strong and well-embedded research culture in the IoE.  In 2016 the number of academic and research staff with level 10 qualifications was 79, or 65 per cent of the Faculty total. By 2022 the total number of academic and research staff had grown to 190, of which 110 had a level 10 qualification. A further 31 were engaged on fully funded doctoral studies. When these complete, the percentage with level 10 qualifications will be 74 per cent.

Substantial further progress has continued to be made on research performance.

  • Five university designated research centres have been established in the IoE, with a further eight Faculty research centres and one affiliated research centre.
  • Research funding increased from just below €1m (with 10 awards) in 2016 to €2.8m (with 45 awards) in 2022.
  • Postgraduate Research Student enrolments rose from 131 in 2017 to 152 as of 1 November 2022.
  • External funding has been obtained for the following Chairs:
    • Prometric Chair in Educational Assessment
    • Naughton Family Chair in STEM Education 
    • Desmond Chair in Early Childhood Education
  • Also, a UNESCO Chair in Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace has been established.
  • Peer reviewed articles increased from 54 articles in 2015, to 123 in 2021, and 166 in 2022. 
  • Citations of publications for DCU Education moved from a below world average field weighted score of 0.59 in 2012 to an above world average score of 1.87 in 2021 and a provisional score of 1.99 for 2022.
  • There is also evidence of increased recruitment of more highly qualified staff, from a wider range of institutions, including internationally.

These developments give every sense of a firmly established and strong research culture and research capacity, very well placed to develop significantly in the coming years.

Celebrating the history:  Despite initiatives such as the publication of a commemorative book and the erection of plaques, a sense still lingers amongst some members of staff that the long and rich history and culture of the incorporating HEIs have not been commemorated sufficiently, or sufficiently publicly, and risk over time not being remembered. The Review Group considers that some thought should be given to how this might be addressed.

In summary, the IoE has been established as a Faculty, offers the full continuum of education courses from Early Childhood to Further and Higher, and has already significantly increased its research profile.  Indeed, the Review group noted that the DCU Staff Leadership Award for 2022-23 was recently presented to Professor Anne Looney, Executive Dean of DCU Institute of Education in recognition of her leadership in working with the university’s philanthropic partners to drive innovation and research.

The IoE clearly has the ambition and potential to achieve global impact.  While progress has been made in strengthening the IoE’s reputation nationally, across Europe, and beyond, more work will need to be done to achieve greater global impact. The Review Group offers some further thoughts on this in the conclusions section below.


Creation of an Expanded Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences with a distinct mix of traditional and applied subjects.

Following Incorporation, the FHSS was expanded from 3 Schools to 7 Schools with the addition of four new schools as follows:

  • English
  • History and Geography
  • Fiontar agus Scoil na Gaeilge
  • Theology, Philosophy and Music.

Academic staff from the Department of French in SPD joined the School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies (SALIS) and academic staff from the Department of Mathematics in SPD were allocated between the School of Mathematical Sciences in the Faculty of Science and Health and the DCU Institute of Education. The Schools of Law and Government, and Communications retained their pre-Incorporation structure.

This was a significant expansion making FHSS the largest faculty in DCU, offering a mix of long-established subjects, such as English Literature, Applied Languages, Geography, History, Irish, Law, Music, Politics, Theology and Philosophy with newer disciplines, such as Media Studies, Translation Studies and International Relations.

A major project was undertaken by the expanded FHSS to consolidate the pre-existing three Arts programmes into a single integrated offering to students i.e., the Joint Honours BA. 

This programme, which offers a mix of traditional and applied subjects has been very popular.  Student numbers on the programme rose from 511 in 2016 to over 1300 in 2022. There has also been an impressive growth in the research profile of the FHSS:

  • Postgraduate Research Student enrolments increased from 179 in 2016 to 233 in 2022.
  • Research funding increased from €5m (with 32 awards) in 2016 to over €6m (with 58 awards) in 2022.
  • Peer reviewed articles in Arts and Humanities increased from 77 in 2015 to 125 in 2021 and 158 in 2022 and in Social Sciences from 204 articles in 2015 to 405 in 2021, and 437 in 2022.
  • Citation scores in Arts and Humanities increased from 1.0 in 2012 to 2.5 in 2019 and in Social Sciences increased from 0.95 in 2012 to 1.65 in 2019.

The Review Group noted that DCU achieved the highest citation score in Ireland in Arts and Humanities in the most recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The Review Group commends the FHSS and the university on this impressive growth in research outputs and impact.

The integration of staff and students into the expanded FHSS has not, however, been without its challenges. The issue most frequently mentioned to the Review Group related to the location of the Faculty across the three campuses – Glasnevin, St Patrick’s and All Hallows.

Despite the strong research performance of the Faculty as referenced above, academic staff commented that opportunities for inter-disciplinary research to grow organically were somewhat hampered by this locational issue, with fewer opportunities for staff to meet informally and share ideas. That said, we were also told of increasing numbers of PhD students receiving inter-disciplinary supervision, and of inter-disciplinary staff research (for example, on data analytics applied to ancient texts, and joint working between electronics and journalism specialists on fake news).

Student representatives also commented on the challenges arising from the tri-location of the Faculty. Students travel between the campuses to attend lectures and tutorials, depending on their subject choices. This can act as a deterrent to students, who may make their choices based on convenience of location rather than personal preference.

Some issues have also arisen in relation to the administration of the Joint Honours degree with comments from professional staff that the number and range of electives on offer has made the course extremely complex to manage. 


Transition from a single to multi-campus university to include academic and administrative units across DCU’s three academic campuses (DCU Glasnevin Campus, DCU St Patrick’s Campus and DCU All Hallows Campus).

DCU is now operating from three campuses. It was a significant achievement for the Estates Office, Information Systems Services and other professional units and their staff to put in place three functioning campuses within a very tight time frame. A major capital construction project was quickly completed on SPC and following the acquisition of AH, substantial preservation and refurbishing work was undertaken to provide essential space for expansion.

The main teaching areas are located on the Glasnevin (GN) and St Patrick’s (SPC) campuses. There are libraries, restaurants, and study spaces on all three campuses.  The university has taken care to ensure that some administrative and other units have offices on both the SPC campus and the GN campus.

The President has an office in SPC and is scheduled to work from there for at least one day each week. The Deputy President works from SPC for a half day each week. Other services have staff who maintain a presence on both campuses. Faculty meetings rotate between all three campuses, and AH is used for university-wide meetings. Despite these positive initiatives, there remains a view amongst some staff that further administrative units should be located (wholly, or with a rotating presence) on SPC and that there should also be a greater and more visible presence of senior staff there.

Student support services have offices in both GN and SPC and the same level of service is available to all students across the two campuses. This represents a significant improvement in services (Medical, Access, Disability, Counselling, Learning Resources, etc.), for the students previously in the incorporating institutions. The Review Panel welcomes this very important enhancement of services for students.

Given the proximity of the St Patrick’s campus to the All Hallows campus, the university has taken the view that duplication of support services is not required at AH and could not be justified. The Review Group visited all three campuses and consider that this approach is not unreasonable, though questions remain over whether the AH campus is being used to full advantage.

As a result of Incorporation there is a much broader range of clubs and societies available to all students and the Office of Student Life takes care to organise social events on both SPC and the GN campus. The Review group was informed that students are consulted and involved in all decisions about events. Nevertheless, it appears to be quite challenging to get students from SPC to engage in societies/events taking place on the GN campus. High contact hours and lengthy teaching-practice placements seem to be the main issue, plus probably other pressures such as accommodation and transport issues, which incline many students to exit the campus immediately at the end of classes.  From our discussions with the Office of Student Life and the sabbatical officers, it seems that considerable effort is made by them to make these events attractive to students from SPC and some progress is apparent. However, it has also been pointed out that low attendance at social events is also an issue for students on other programmes which contain placements or have very high contact hours, e.g., Health Sciences, Engineering. We were also informed that student satisfaction surveys undertaken by the Office of Student Life appear to show no significant differences in levels of satisfaction between students based at the different campuses.

A number of staff commented that more attention might have been paid to those Faculties not directly impacted by Incorporation i.e., Engineering and Computing, Science and Health, and the Business School.  The balance of student numbers across the faculties has changed, with HSS now the largest Faculty.  In this context it was considered that the branding of each of the faculties might beneficially be re-examined and the changed identity of DCU, which now has a much more broadly-based discipline mix, should be promoted both internally and externally.

At focus group meetings with staff, the view was expressed that ‘we need to stop talking about Incorporation’, which is now a fait accompli, and put the emphasis on promoting inclusivity and integration across the university.  Some staff felt that the energy that had initially been applied to these objectives had been interrupted by the pandemic, and never fully recovered. It was considered that the framework to facilitate this already exists in the Our DCU initiative.

A similar view was expressed by students – the historical process of Incorporation means nothing to current students. In their view, the emphasis should be on the whole DCU experience, which at the same time encompasses respect for the unique identities of each campus.

The AH campus was not part of the original plan for Incorporation but was subsequently acquired with the assistance of funding provided by the DES. It is a significant asset. There is a view, however, that it is currently under-utilised. The School of Theology, School of English, Fiontar agus Scoil na Gaeilge are located there, some classes take place there, and there is a restaurant, a substantially refurbished library and study spaces. The Church of Ireland Denominational Centre is located there and recently the Anti-Bullying Centre was relocated to AHC.  Staff commented that there is an opportunity to develop this campus further and use it as a means of bringing staff from all campuses together.


Full integration of staff from the incorporating institutions to meet DCU’s organisational requirements and maximize efficiencies.

A comprehensive work programme was put in place to integrate staff from the incorporating institutions into DCU. At an early stage of the Incorporation Programme Organisation Design Principles were developed and agreed which included confirmation that there would be no staff redundancies and that staff would not lose out financially on transfer.

The process to transfer staff commenced by mapping the academic and professional grades onto the DCU grades that most closely reflected the monetary value of their existing grade.

Following agreement on the grading structures, an extensive programme was undertaken to assign colleagues to roles in the ‘new’ DCU organisation structures.

Academic colleagues from all four HEIs worked together to devise and propose School Structures for Education and HSS, which were then considered and approved by the Incorporation Board. Academic staff were then invited to select the school in their respective faculties which aligned with their academic expertise.  

In relation to administrative/professional staff, an extensive consultation process was undertaken with representatives from all four HEIs to design the future Unit structures.   

Once the structures were agreed by the Incorporation Board, a separate exercise was undertaken to assign colleagues to roles in the new structures. Key to this process was the objective that colleagues be assigned to functions as close as possible to their previous roles, commensurate with their qualifications and experience.

However, administrative/professional staff in many instances had to take on new roles or substantially change how they had carried out their work. Training programmes were put in place to facilitate transfer to DCU work processes and procedures, and multiple information sessions were hosted to support staff through the Incorporation process. Regular contact with the unions was maintained through the operation of the Central Negotiating Committee (CNC), which met regularly for two years and was chaired by an external facilitator.

The Review Group was impressed by the strong HR leadership apparent throughout the integration process and by the energy and commitment demonstrated by all involved and noted that DCU won Best Public Sector Initiative in 2017 as part of the HR Leaderships Awards in Ireland.

Through focus group meetings and other meetings with staff, it appears to the Review Group that staff are generally satisfied with and take pride in the outcomes from Incorporation. Challenging issues which arose in the early years of implementation, e.g., pensions, have now largely been resolved and the majority of staff enjoy working in a larger HEI and appreciate the opportunities that this offers. 

There is, however, a view that working in a large organisation has resulted in greater bureaucracy and fewer personal interactions with relevant professional/administrative staff. To address this, it was suggested, as mentioned above, that some of the larger administrative units should have a presence on the SPC, e.g., HR.

The Review Group was made aware that the loss of professional/administrative staff following Incorporation due to contracts ending or retirement has led to a loss of corporate memory, and the view was expressed that it was important to retain the strengths and skills in Change Management and Project Management gained during the process. There were differing views as to whether this could best be done through a specialist unit or by widespread diffusion across staff.

At meetings with staff, some dissatisfaction was expressed over how the mapping exercise for professional staff was undertaken. In addition, there was a perception amongst some staff, both academic and professional/administrative, that there was a lack of promotional opportunities post Incorporation, although many staff welcomed the wider opportunities available in a larger institution.

The Review Group is aware that the grades of Professor and equivalent level Professional/Administrative posts did not exist in the incorporating institutions. This is a significant benefit and was welcomed by staff.

At our meetings with staff, the Review Group was advised that pre-incorporation there was a fear amongst some staff in the incorporating institutions that they would be disadvantaged in the new DCU organisation post Incorporation. However, this fear seems to have dissipated. Indeed, reference was made by staff to the parity of esteem which they enjoyed with their colleagues post Incorporation and this was also apparent to the Review Group at our meetings with groups of staff.


Full integration of DCU’s operations, systems and processes, thereby delivering a unified, coherent multi-campus approach for all administration and support services. 

Full integration of DCU’s operations, systems and processes has been achieved following a complex but well-structured change process.

All campuses now use the same operating systems, procedures, and processes, e.g., student records system, finance, and HR systems, and these appear to be working well.

Academic procedures and processes have also been aligned. This was helped by DCU’s previous close relationship with SPD and MDI as awarding body for these HEIs.

Three functioning libraries were put in place, offering equal services to students across all three campuses. To enable this to happen, library collections were relocated, an extensive re-cataloguing programme was undertaken, and all systems and processes were harmonised. 

Throughout the process, strong financial control was maintained through the operation of a Cost Oversight Committee.

All these developments were achieved within a very tight timeframe and within budget. This is a credit to all concerned.

Some issues were raised by staff in relation to the ability of the existing student records system to support the range of choices now available in the Joint Honours BA. We are aware that a new student records system is currently being introduced in the university. This may assist with these issues.

At focus group meetings, staff identified a need for greater networking between professional staff in analogous roles across the Faculties. This would support the sharing of knowledge on best practice initiatives and working together in particular areas. An example was given of apparently variable practice over Faculties facilitating pooling small research grants to enable hiring a shared research assistant. Such initiatives could help deliver more coherent and cost-effective outcomes across the university.


[5] The Structure of Teacher Education in Ireland – Review of Progress in Implementing Reform page 14



Incorporation Report - Conclusions header

Overall Conclusions

The Incorporation was driven by a widely shared wish, across the incorporating partners, to transform the provision of teacher education by bringing together into one university the full range of teacher education courses from Early Childhood to Further/Higher education, and to create the critical mass to facilitate research in Education at the highest international standards. With this ambition came a parallel opportunity to significantly broaden the subject offerings in HSS at DCU and to further enhance its research capabilities. For both Faculties, a key goal was to provide an enhanced student learning experience at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The overall conclusion of the Review Group is that the Incorporation has gone extremely well. DCU has significantly strengthened its Education and HSS Faculties and now offers a much broader range of subjects to its students. The research profile of the university has also been enhanced with an impressive growth in research outputs in recent years. Systems and processes have been harmonised and students and staff integrated across the three campuses.  Enhanced student support services are now available to all students and the range of clubs and societies open to students has been expanded.

Much also remains ‘work in progress’, and the Review Group offers some thoughts below on the Incorporation process and possible future developments.


Incorporation process

All major structural change projects are sui generis, much is dependent on the specific circumstances applying. Nevertheless, at a certain level of analysis some general features can be compared.

In this case, the initial structural conditions were favourable: long (decades) working relations between some of the organisations and individuals, an emerging sense that the overall pattern of teacher training in Ireland required reform, good personal relations, quite a lot of systems already in common. This is unusual.

That said, a myriad of issues (legal, political, ecclesiastical, industrial relations, student affairs, sports clubs, individual circumstances) that might have become causes célèbres, could have slowed matters or become roadblocks. That they did not is a testament to outstanding leadership within all four institutions – at executive and governance levels, and among student leaders.

The fact that there was a broad consensus among key stakeholders in the churches and the wider policy environment on the value of the goals which had been set for the Incorporation process, was also important.

In addition, individuals in all four institutions were willing to be brave (including over the outcomes for their own careers); were skilled planners/organisers, who could carry people with them and who showed immense patience and willingness to truly listen; and critically had the social/political capital to address issues arising successfully and quickly. Again, this is unusual.

The vision and commitment of church leaders to the idea of ‘progressive pluralism’ in the provision of religious teacher education were also key to the success of the process.

During all our meetings with staff and stakeholders, frequent references were made to the importance of the respect shown for others’ positions in negotiations.

The CNC, which brought unions and management together facilitated by an independent Chair and which met every two weeks for two years, is also considered a major element in the success of the process, providing a sharp focus for decision making, and a critical independent dimension to the resolution of issues.

Also of critical importance was the significant co-funding both capital and recurrent which was provided by the DES/HEA to support the process, as summarised below:

  DES        HEA        DCU        Total
Recurrent:     - €11.4m €12.2m €23.6m
Capital:            €18.0m - €4.4m €22.4m
Grand Total       €46.0m

In addition, the HEA provided ring-fenced recurrent funding in respect of the three incorporating institutions for a five-year period.

The early decision to set a tight deadline was also important - this kept minds focused. The use of a project management approach, underpinned by advice from external consultants, while a common feature of processes of this kind, seems to have been well executed and of vital importance to the management of such a complex process. Indeed, it is noteworthy that DCU was in a position to register students from the incorporating HEIs in 2015, a year earlier than the proposed Incorporation date.  This gave a clear signal that Incorporation was going to happen.


Future Developments

While some issues remain, the overall view of the Review Group is that the benefits from Incorporation greatly exceed any challenges. From discussions with staff and students it seems clear that there is a desire to move on from discussion about Incorporation and instead focus on building an inclusive, connected DCU, which recognises that each of the campuses has unique and distinctive elements that should be celebrated and honoured.

The existing framework of Our DCU is seen as a platform that could facilitate this.

Some particular considerations apply to the Institute of Education, arising from the Incorporation Objective to establish Ireland’s first university-based Faculty of Education with the ambition and potential for global impact.

Firstly, the Review Group considers that there would be value in doing more to ‘remember/memorialise’ the history and traditions of SPD, MDI and CICE and indeed the prior Education activity at DCU. There are long and rich histories to conserve and honour, for appreciation by alumni, current and future students, staff and the wider community. To do so, in a publicly visible way, we believe would enrich the important continuing work to develop a shared culture across all campuses.

Secondly, the new Faculty is now firmly established, and has already demonstrated its innovative capacity with the creation of the two Denominational Centres. These appear to be functioning well within DCU structures. For their long-term success, the Centres will require sustained support from DCU as a whole and the IoE and the Advisory Councils in particular.

Thirdly, the new Faculty commands a rich array of educational provision across the spectrum of modes, levels and subjects of teacher education, continuing professional development for teachers, and much else. The Faculty is already well networked into policy and educational professional circles and is working in partnerships with others to meet some identified specialist shortages. There is ample scope to develop further in these respects, identifying issues, and responding to the many initiatives already in play or emerging from future DoE policies.

Fourthly, good progress has been made with the ambition and potential for global impact. The IoE is staffed at a level that positions it well by international standards for this purpose.

  • There has been steady progress (see above) in the research standing of the staff.
  • The growing recruitment of international staff enriches teaching and brings with it international visibility for research.
  • There is a good, and growing, range of international partnerships, research collaborations and policy advisory roles. These extend widely across a range of European countries (Croatia, Lithuania …), the USA (Arizona State, Rutgers, Illinois), and Africa (Zambia, Tanzania).

It will be important to continue energetically with enlarging these measures to build global recognition and impact, and progress to date shows that the matter is firmly in hand.

While we gathered good evidence of this progress, there does not, however, seem to be any systematic collection of data for this purpose. Indeed, at one focus group, staff themselves asked how the University assessed the global impact aim of Incorporation. This might be worth considering for understanding and promoting the value, not only of the Incorporation internally but also the reputation of DCU more broadly, especially its international reputation.

Finally, as already noted, the IoE is well networked into policy-making circles within Ireland, and the EU more widely. Nevertheless, given the scale and scope of expertise within the IoE, and its geographical proximity to key policy actors, it may be worth considering what more could be done to build a role as a leader for policy advice in Ireland and internationally.

It takes patience and determination to build the necessary bridges between academic research and policy formulation. More is probably already being done than has reached our notice. But perhaps steps could be taken to make it easier for key ‘players’, at varying levels, to become more alive to the resource that is on their doorstep. Obvious examples include ‘going to them’ with a programme of short lunchtime presentations on key or emerging issues; a series of sharply tailored briefing papers; invitations to participate in IoE events; a regular email bulletin to policy makers and education professionals on IoE activities; and with coaching by more experienced staff on the differences between addressing academic and policy audiences. IoE members will no doubt have more or indeed better ideas on how to pursue this objective.

In relation to FHSS, DCU has clearly met the objective to create an Expanded Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences with a distinct mix of traditional and applied subjectsThe Faculty now offers a broad range of subjects, and its Joint Honours BA has a strong and growing student enrolment. Research performance has also increased, and the Faculty is building a strong international reputation.

Some challenges remain and these mainly relate to the tri-location of the FHSS.

In discussions with staff and student representatives, the issue of transport between the campuses was raised particularly (but not only) in relation to FHSS.

With regard to students, some possible solutions suggested to us include –blended learning, a unified parking system, eBikes and eScooters. We understand that some of these initiatives are already being trialled on a pilot basis. It was also suggested that the university might consider organising block periods of academic activity in the respective campuses, say a day a week or a number of days each semester, thus removing the need to travel between campuses during a single day. In relation to staff who need to move between campuses, measures might be considered to simplify the practicalities, e.g., dedicated parking slots, hot desks. The Review Group considers that there is a need to address this issue for both staff and students.

Some of the issues which were raised by staff at our meetings related to promotion opportunities and workload allocation models. While some staff welcomed the increased promotion opportunities available due to being part of a larger organisation, others felt that there were insufficient promotional opportunities. Provisional data provided to the Review Group suggests that neither Faculty has been disadvantaged in relation to promotions. The Review Group is aware that the position in relation to promotion schemes and workload allocation models is constantly evolving both in Ireland and internationally. The Review Group recommends that DCU should continue to keep such developments under on-going review.


Other Matters for Consideration

Post-Incorporation, the balance of disciplines within DCU has changed. The Review Group considers that it is now timely for the university to review its vision and identity going forward, and indeed this is also essential in the context of the changing Irish higher education landscape. In this context, we are aware that the university is currently undertaking a consultation process in relation to its upcoming Strategic Plan.

The Review Group also considers that SPC and the AH campus would benefit from an increase in the number of administrative units and the more frequent and visible presence of senior management staff there. This would facilitate greater integration across the three campuses.

Professional/Administrative staff showed huge dedication and great skill in managing very complex change projects. The Review Group is of the view that consideration should be given to how best to recognise this demonstrated capacity and to cultivate and embed it in order to address future challenges which may arise.

The value of networking within and across faculties and administrative units, was raised by both academic and professional staff. Networking can facilitate the development of new and exciting initiatives across all areas of the university’s activities. The Review Group recommends that consideration be given to how networking opportunities can best be facilitated.

The AH campus is a rich addition to the DCU estates portfolio and offers great possibilities for expansion, albeit subject to securing capital funding.  The Review Group understands that the university has ambitious plans for the development of the campus and noted the substantial work already undertaken including the refurbishments of the Dining Room and the Woodlock Hall library, the latter of which was opened in November 2021. The Review Group considers that in further developing the campus, there is an opportunity for the university to consider how its facilities might be used to promote greater integration of all staff.  There is also an opportunity to use the closer proximity of SPC and AH to the city centre to promote DCU more widely in the community.


Summary and Acknowledgements

To conclude, the Review Group wishes to commend DCU and the incorporating institutions on their bold initial vision and their successful implementation of a very complex process.

In contrast to many higher education mergers, Incorporation has resulted, in a remarkably short time, in a new Faculty that is already well integrated in terms of staffing, academic provision and organisational systems. It has created a significant new force in the field of Education, with national and international impact, well set on a rising trajectory.

DCU as a whole is also now considerably stronger and more broadly based. The Faculty of HSS has not only grown as a consequence of Incorporation but has also significantly enhanced the provision available through its Joint Honours programmes, and the scope of its research. And while the other Faculties were relatively untouched by the initial incorporation process, we have heard of increasing signs of new cross-faculty possibilities, in teaching and research, emerging from growing understanding of the resources now at hand. It seems clear that the incorporating institutions have achieved significantly more benefits than might otherwise have been the case, had they remained separate.

The challenge now for the university, as it prepares its next Strategic Plan, is to work to realise the full potential of the broad spectrum of strengths that it has built up across the board, and to promote a deeper awareness in the national and international communities with which it works of the resource that can now be offered.

Finally, we would like to express our thanks to all those who, willingly and graciously, gave of their time to engage with us during the course of the review; their cooperation was extremely valuable and much appreciated. We would also like to thank staff from the DCU Learning and Organisational Unit who facilitated the focus group meetings and all those who provided us with background information and data.

We are particularly grateful to Ms. Emer McMahon, Secretary to the Review Group who worked tirelessly to support us in our decision-making. Her patience, good humour and expert knowledge of the Incorporation process made the task of the Review Group much easier.

February 2023

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