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Update on DCU Strategic Plan & Institutional Review

The first year of implementation of our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan (‘Talent, Discovery and Transformation’) was completed on September 30. The annual process of progress monitoring and ‘Review and Renew’ has now taken place. Arising from this, a summary of achievements in Year 1 of the Strategic Plan was discussed with a subgroup of Governing Authority (assembled by the Chancellor) at a meeting on October 17. The outcome of the ‘Review and Renew’ process, together with the input of the GA subgroup, was discussed at the most recent GA meeting on October 25. There were no changes proposed to the Strategic Plan and the significant progress achieved in Year 1 was noted.

The next stage of the process will be circulation of a brochure detailing Year 1 Progress and Year 2 Priorities to all members of DCU staff. This will be followed by consultations with staff across all faculties and units of the University over the coming months, starting in November.

The on-site part of the CINNTE Institutional Review of DCU took place from Monday October 22 to Friday October 26. This was a hugely intensive process that involved a great degree of commitment from many individuals across the University. I wish to express my deep gratitude to all who contributed to this effort. In particular, I wish to highlight the excellent work of the team in the QPO (Aisling McKenna, Karen Johnston, Celine Heffernan and Fiona Dwyer) under the guidance of our Deputy President, Prof. Daire Keogh. While it will be some time before we receive the formal written report of the Review, those of you present at the informal debriefing from the Chair of the panel on the last day will have been assured by the very positive comments made about DCU’s vibrancy, commitment and innovative culture.

Save our Spark (SOS) Campaign takes off!

To deliver on ambitious targets for the quality of the learning experience for our students, Irish universities must overcome challenges created by a growing student population, a rapidly changing society, and, above all, serious under-investment by the Irish state.

As a follow-up to the ‘Charter for Irish Universities’ published in September, and with a view to enhancing public awareness of the threats posed to the quality of the Irish HE system, the IUA has launched a multi-media communications campaign across a range of channels. The Save Our Spark Campaign ( went live on Monday, October 15. The link to the Save our Spark video may be found here.

The initial objective of this campaign is to engage students, staff, alumni, followed by parents and the general public and to secure their active support for the campaign. If you believe in the objectives of this initiative, please join the campaign and use social media platforms to spread the SOS video and related messages!

DCU receives historic Irish Pirate Radio Archive

DCU’s O’Reilly Library is now the proud host of the Irish Pirate Radio Archive.

Comprising a wide range of documentation, publications and paraphernalia relating to Ireland’s rich history of pirate radio, the archive is critical to understanding the development of radio as a medium of communication over the course of the twentieth century.

This Archive constitutes an important addition to our Media History Collection, a unique special collection that our School of Communications has developed with the Library over the past decade.

As part of its ever expanding collections in media history, DCU Libraries will now preserve the State’s principal archive of the activities of pirate radio throughout Ireland from the early 1900s up to the 1988 legislation, which established the independent radio sector.

By providing a secure and permanent home, DCU Libraries will ensure this unique archive’s availability to future generations of researchers.

As 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the close-down of pirate radio in advance of the opening of regional radio stations, the donation of this material to DCU is timely and will be of major interest to media and journalism scholars nationally and internationally.

As part of this new relationship with DCU, the Irish Pirate Radio Archive plans to add a new dimension to its collection by creating a digital oral history of the heyday of pirate radio.

It launched this initiative at the Ballsbridge Hotel on October 20th, where over 100 people involved in pirate radio – owners, DJs and even those who raided stations – gathered to tell their own story and ensure that a unique aspect of Ireland’s rich media history is preserved for future generations. 

Many thanks to Dr Mark O’Brien from our School of Communications who has played a central role in this development.

DCU and Wuhan University launch new collaborative Master of Engineering programme

During October, an Irish ministerial delegation visited Wuhan University (WHU) in China to mark the recent launch of a collaborative Master of Engineering programme between DCU and WHU.

The delegation was headed by Minister of State John Halligan T.D., who was accompanied by Ireland's Ambassador to China H.E. Eoin O'Leary and senior representatives from the Department of Education and Skills, the Irish Embassy and Enterprise Ireland.

DCU was represented by the Executive Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Computing, Prof. Lisa Looney and Director International Engagement (NE Asia), Sylvia Schroeder.  The visit took place as part of a five-day Enterprise Ireland ‘Education in Ireland’ mission to China.

WHU is one of China's leading universities (Top 10) and DCU's longest-standing partner institution in the country. Following many years of teaching and research collaboration, both universities recently undertook to deepen the partnership by submitting a joint application for approval of a two-year collaborative MEng in Electronic and Computer Engineering to the Chinese Ministry of Education. Both institutions were delighted to announce that the application has been successful.

This joint initiative is both WHU’s and DCU’s first MOE-approved collaborative Master programme, and WHU is the highest ranked of any MOE-approved Sino-Irish programme collaborators.

The first intake of 30 students is planned for September 2019 and students will be recruited through the Chinese National Postgraduate Entrance Examination.

Students will spend the first year studying at WHU and the second year at DCU, earning a dual degree.

The programme combines WHU’s expertise in software engineering with DCU’s expertise in advanced data networks.

Graduates of the programme will benefit from Ireland’s two-year visa stay back option which affords international postgraduate degree holders with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in Ireland’s exciting tech environment. During his visit to WHU, Minister Halligan congratulated both universities on this important achievement and voiced his support for the initiative.  

DCU and Irish Heart Foundation team up to move 200,000 teens to the right PATH

DCU and the Irish Heart Foundation have joined forces to roll out an ambitious new physical activity programme to help over 200,000 teenagers at Junior Certificate level get moving.

The new initiative, called Y-PATH PE 4 ME (Youth-Physical Activity Towards Health), is a three-year, evidence-based programme that has proved effective for improving both physical activity levels and fundamental movement skills among Irish teens aged 12-15.

The programme was developed in response to extensive research led by Dr Sarahjane Belton of our School of Health and Human Performance, which found that only one in five Irish young people aged 12-15 are getting enough physical activity, one in every four are overweight or obese, and fewer than one in every 100 have mastered basic fundamental movement skills.

Traditional PE class has at times been criticised for over-emphasising games and competitive activities, which can alienate inactive young people, and move them further away from a physically active lifestyle.

The overarching objective of Y-PATH PE 4 ME is to change how young people in Ireland perceive and experience PE class, which is now a compulsory part of the wellbeing curriculum at schools. DCU and the Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with UCC, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and Sport Ireland will roll out a nationwide professional development programme and toolkits to PE teachers in every school across the country with a target of reaching over 200,000 teens over the next three years.  

Talent Garden Dublin opens at DCU Alpha

Talent Garden Dublin, the latest facility in Europe’s largest network of digital innovation hubs was opened on the 15th October 2018 on our Innovation Campus, DCU Alpha, by Minister for Finance & Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD.

Focusing on digital innovation, Talent Garden Dublin will provide spaces for 350 freelancers, start-ups and innovation labs of large corporates that want to leverage the vibrancy of a co-working and digital innovation ecosystem.  It is the first Co-working Space-University strategic partnership of its kind in the world.

Coinciding with Talent Garden Ireland’s launch, Intel announced that, as part of their ongoing collaboration with DCU, they will have a presence at Talent Garden. The company is seeking to identify and enable an indigenous cohort of AI/Computer Vision innovators through the provision of its technology, as well as providing a structured programme of technical guidance and support under one roof.

The launch of Talent Garden Dublin on DCU Alpha marks another major milestone in DCU’s commitment to advance Ireland’s innovation ecosystem. Operating at the forefront of digital innovation will be central to Ireland’s future prosperity. In that context, we are delighted to have attracted the provider of Europe’s largest network of digital innovation hubs to DCU Alpha.

The establishment of Talent Garden Dublin adds to the menu of opportunities for DCU staff and students who wish to engage in innovation (especially digital digital) across a broad range of application areas. The new facility hosts an impressive coffee shop and Italian restaurant that are both open to members of the general public!

Facebook and National Anti-Bullying Centre announce partnership to deliver anti-bullying and online safety training in post-primary schools

Facebook and the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) here at DCU recently launched a partnership that will see an anti-bullying and online safety training programme offered to every post-primary school in Ireland

Through this initiative, which is led by the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace, Professor James O'Higgins Norman, leading ABC experts will offer training to teachers and parents of 12 to 17-year-old students across the country. Through face-to-face workshops and online modules, participants will be equipped with the tools to identify and understand bullying and develop the skills to support students when it comes to online safety.

Upon completion of this programme, parents and teachers will be able to:

●       Define and identify bullying, cyberbullying, and online safety;

●       Engage empathically with children and young people;

●       Investigate and resolve reported incidents;

●       Teach children and adolescents how to nurture respectful relationships, and develop better communication skills offline and online; and

●       Support colleagues in strengthening their abilities to educate young people about bullying, cyberbullying, and online safety.

This initiative will have a profound impact on the lives of thousands of students and their families. I welcome the fact that the focus is on providing training for teachers and parents who are both faced with the growing challenge of supporting students dealing with all the complexities and dangers associated with bullying, cyberbullying, and online safety.

Dr Paul Downes Appointed to European Commission expert panel

Congratulations to Dr Paul Downes, Associate Professor and Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre in our Institute of Education, who has been appointed as a member of the European Commission’s European Education and Training Expert Panel.

The main task of the Expert Panel is to support the preparation of the European Union’s post-2020 Strategic Cooperation Framework for Education and Training.

The Expert Panel will reflect on the grand challenges facing Europe and their impact on the education and training systems. It will produce specific thematic reports and an overall report to inform the Commission’s and EU Member States’ thinking regarding the post-2020 Education and Training strategy for the next decade. 

The topics analysed by the Expert Panel are clustered in six thematic blocks, with a special focus on what is expected to influence the future of learning:

1. Demographic challenges (ageing population, migration flows);

2. Inclusion and citizenship (addressing social diversity, integration of migrants, need for critical thinking, disparity of values, addressing inequalities);

3. Technological change and the future of work (automation and artificial intelligence, uncertainty about future skills needs, need for creativity and entrepreneurship);

4. Digitalisation of society (lack of digital skills, challenges of exploiting digital tools, inequalities in access to digital resources);

5. Environmental challenges (environmental degradation, growing consumerism, barriers to sustainable development);

6. Investment, reforms and governance (competitiveness, role of non-state actors in societal provisions, changes in approach to teaching and learning).

Colleagues will recognise many of these themes as ones that are reflected in DCU’s Strategic Plan (‘Talent, Discovery and Transformation’).

The Expert Panel will, in particular, also highlight new insights in teaching and learning. A new post-ET2020 strategic framework will need to address challenges that are relevant to all stages of education and training.

Paul is one of 18 experts selected after a public call and is the only Irish member of the expert panel. He is one of three experts specifically selected under the 'Inclusion and citizenship' thematic heading. Each panel member contributes to the development of all themes.

DCU Water Institute – Ambisense joint venture wins research funding

I was delighted to learn that DCU Water Institute’s collaboration with Ambisense - a DCU spin-out company specialising in using technology to solve complex environmental problems – was awarded Enterprise Ireland Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding in October.

The funding will allow this venture to tackle (and conquer!) the Smart City challenge of identifying and communicating bathing water quality to the general public. In this context, DCU Water Institute intends on further developing its Colisense field test equipment.

Created and designed in DCU's Water Institute by Dr Ciprian Birciu, under the supervision of DCU Water Institute Director, Prof. Fiona Regan, Colisense can be used as an indicatory measure of E. coli in bathing water.

DCU Water Institute has teamed up with Ambisense to develop and design a chip to send results from Colisense to social media and beach websites.  The two partner organisations will be trialling Colisense with the co-funders of this project, Waterford City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, over the coming weeks.

EQI Researchers win inaugural John Coolahan SCoTENS Award

Congratulations to Dr. Martin Brown and Prof. Joe O’Hara of the Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection (EQI)at DCU Institute of Education, who were awarded the Inaugural John Coolahan Award by the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (ScoTENS) for research into ICT use in Initial Teacher Education conducted with colleagues in Queens University and Ulster University.

The award was named in honour of Prof. John Coolahan, former Chair of the Governing Body of St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra and driving force behind the establishment of SCoTENS. Prof. Coolahan, who passed away earlier this year, was a pivotal figure in the history of Irish Education who played a crucial part in the redesign and reconceptualisation of research and practice across the continuum of education.

The award was created by SCOTENS both to honour the memory of Prof. Coolahan and to recognise outstanding educational research that brings together professionals from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Funded by SCoTENS, the research, Teacher Education Tutors' Practice in ICT: North and South' , explored teacher educators use of ICT on the island of Ireland. It was conducted between 2016 and 2018 and comprised a comprehensive survey, lecture observations and a interviews that were carried out by Martin and Joe along with research colleagues from Northern Ireland: Dr. Pamela Cowan (Queens University), Prof. Roger Austin and Dr. Stephen Roulston (Ulster University).

DCU team wins ‘Best Research Paper’ Award at international Digital Learning conference

Congratulations to  Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, Elaine Beirne and Conchúr MacLochlainn, who won the ‘Best Research Paper Award’ at the EDEN Research Conference in Barcelona on October 26th.

Their paper on 'Moody MOOCs: An Exploration of Emotion in an LMOOC', was singled out for its originally, unique methodological design and investigation of a relatively new area of research in the area of online learning.

The accolade is one of the most prestigious research awards in this field in Europe.

The conference saw six DCU doctoral students presenting their research at the Doctoral Symposium on along with five other presentations from NIDL staff.

Well done to everyone who contributed to this important research conference.