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Putting the U in DCU

Our new state-of-the art student centre dedicated to enhancing the student experience at DCU was officially opened by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, on September 27th

Funded completely by philanthropic donations, with the majority coming from our own students, ‘the U’, a purpose-built facility housing a broad range of activities and support services, will serve the needs of DCU’s rapidly growing student community, now numbering over 17,000. It is estimated that, in the coming decade, over 50,000 students will avail of the facilities and services on offer at the U.

Key features include a Student Leadership and Life-Skills Centre, Performing Arts and Cultural spaces for students and the wider community, an Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub for national and international student initiatives, and a Global Village celebrating the cultural diversity of the University, with more than 115 different nationalities represented in the student population.

The U is also home to a specially-commissioned sculpture, ‘Emergence’, by renowned artist Liam O’Neill. The 3-metre high piece, which is carved from the wood of a 250-year old copper beech tree that had to be felled on the Glasnevin campus (outside the Albert College) due to disease, represents the concept of the transformation of the student throughout their personal journey at the university. Many colleagues will recall the great sadness that was expressed across the University when the tree was felled. It is fitting that this piece of our heritage is located in the U and celebrates our essential mission.

The U is one of the most high-profile and ambitious projects in our Campus Development Plan and will play a pivotal role in student life across our three campuses. It represents a major milestone for everyone associated with DCU, and reflects our commitment to the personal and professional development of our students. The U’s opening demonstrated what can be achieved through partnership and generosity. It is a physical manifestation of DCU’s mission ‘to transform lives and societies’.

 New €50 million STEM facility confirmed

A new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) facility on the DCU Glasnevin Campus was confirmed on 14th September, following a government announcement of a €24 million investment towards the €50m building.

The new 10,000m2 ‘Future-Tech’ facility will further advance DCU’s international reputation for excellence in science, computing and engineering disciplines. Combined with loan finance from EIB (already announced by us in launching our Campus Development Plan) and philanthropic support, this will allow us to build a €50m facility that will greatly increase teaching space capacity in the University, especially in a range of STEM disciplines.

This is excellent news for the whole university, especially for staff in the School of Health and Human Performance who will finally find a new home together in the facility!

The support and sanctioning of a project of this magnitude by the Government demonstrates the shared commitment to STEM as a key component of Ireland’s future prosperity. We are very grateful for this endorsement of our ambitious plans to develop talent that can flourish on the global stage in a world where technological innovation plays such a pivotal role.

Having now received the green light to proceed with Future-Tech, detailed planning is expected to commence shortly. This signature building will take 18-24 months to build, with the first student intake earmarked for 2021.

 Irish Universities launch joint Charter on the future of Higher Education

Along with Ireland’s six other universities, DCU recently committed to a six-point Charter to advance the university education system for this and future generations of students. The development of the Charter, the first of its kind in the Irish third level sector, was coordinated by the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

‘Ireland’s Future Talent – A Charter for Irish Universities’ identifies six central objectives and commits to deliver a ‘fit for purpose’ university system for the evolving demands of society. Its target is to enable the Irish education system to address a range of key challenges and to align with the Government’s ambition for a sustainable, competitive national education sector.

The six key objectives are to:

  1. Build on the quality of the student experience in a digital age.
  2. Increase the scale, scope and impact of investment in research and innovation.
  3. Expand student access and increase engagement with communities and industry.
  4. Support a programme of staff development and increased equality and diversity.
  5. Create more flexible and accountable structures.
  6. Secure the investment and resources to achieve our ambitions. 

Speaking at the launch of the Charter, Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association said: “We require a transformation of how university education is controlled including freeing universities from the grinding levers of State to allow them innovate and grow. This requires more flexible structures combined with strong governance and accountability.” 

“Every politician is aware of the major funding deficit for third level, yet no progress has been made on re-vamping the overall structure... Meanwhile, the scale of the funding deficit continues to grow as more and more students enter our universities. We share the government’s ambition for education but that ambition needs to be matched with a commitment to provide the structures and funding required to deliver it.”   

You can download the Charter here.

 DCU strikes a chord with Berklee College of Music & Fingal County Council

At the start of August, we were delighted to host the Groove School programme in partnership with Fingal County Council and Berklee College. When the degree programmes of Newpark Music School were brought into DCU in recent years (creating the BA in Jazz and Contemporary Music Performance), DCU developed a relationship with the prestigious, Boston-based, Berklee College of Music. The Groove School programme comprised a three-day musical training workshop to teach 100 secondary school students about musical performance skills and techniques.

The workshop, which was held in the St. Patrick’s Campus auditorium, gave students the opportunity to learn about the Berklee method of music education, encompassing theory, ear training, improvisation, ensemble performance, and instrumental instruction. The specific classes on offer covered a wide range of topics, such as different performance styles, harmonising, and improvisation, before culminating in a concert where the school-children showcased their new and improved musical talents.

 A number of exceptionally talented secondary school students were awarded scholarships to the value of $20,000 to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

 The programme is part of Dublin City University’s ongoing commitment to create a North Dublin Cultural Quarter, working with local authorities and the community to highlight and stimulate creativity in the North Dublin region.

 DCU researchers shine a light on Leaving Cert

The Leaving Certificate curriculum is failing to prepare students adequately for university studies, according to research carried out by Prof. Michael O’Leary and Dr. Darina Scully of DCU’s Centre for Assessment Research Policy and Practice in Education (CARPE). Independent and critical thinking, open-mindedness, and confidence in reaching decisions were among the many areas where respondents overwhelmingly felt that the Leaving Certificate did not sufficiently prepare them for their studies at university.

On a positive note, the survey found that the majority of respondents believed that the Leaving Cert studies had prepared them well to persist when learning was difficult (83% agreed), to be well organised (83% agreed), to manage their time (72% agreed) and to cope with the pressure of heavy workload requirements (75% agreed).

Another key DCU study released in August found that Leaving Certificate students rely heavily on rote learning and memory recall to get through their exams, as opposed to critical thinking and creative skills. The research carried out by Dr. Denise Burns, Centre for Evaluation, Quality, and Inspection at the DCU Institute of Education, challenges the effectiveness of the Leaving Certificate assessment to foster creativity and intellectual stimulation among students.

In terms of what was required to address the deficiencies and concerns identified in the first research study, Prof. O’Leary commented: “One practical step would be to build on the work now underway at Junior Cycle that seeks to provide students with the tools to start developing greater learner autonomy. At Senior Cycle, this might involve, for example, exposing students to a wider range of literature and teaching them how to cite others to lend support to their views while at the same time broadening assessment to include approaches that facilitate the gathering of evidence for critical, independent thinking.”

You can read more about the studies here and here.

 Lord Mayor of Dublin visits his Alma Mater

It was a privilege to welcome Dublin’s First Citizen and our very own alumnus, Lord Mayor Nial Ring, to DCU in August. Nial has the distinction of being the second person ever to graduate from DCU!

Having entered NIHE Dublin (as DCU was then) in 1980 as part of the first ever student cohort, he graduated with a BA in Accounting and Finance in 1983. In our first ever Graduation ceremony, graduates of the A&F degree were called up first and, at that stage, graduates were called out in order of merit. Nial was clearly a bright student!  

Lord Mayor Ring was elected to office during the annual council meeting on June 25th last. He previously worked in the financial industry and has served as an independent councillor for Dublin’s Inner City North area since 2009.

Mr Ring is the 394th Lord Mayor of Dublin.

 DCU Alumni Event for BEd Class of ‘78

The BEd ‘Class of 1978' returned to DCU St Patrick's Campus to celebrate their 40th anniversary reunion last weekend. The graduates honoured their fallen classmates with a short prayer service in the Campus chapel before making their way to Cregan Library for refreshments and an update from Dr. Anne Looney on DCU and the new DCU Institute of Education.

During the evening, returning alumni enjoyed a trip down memory lane as our student ambassadors led campus tours and provided an opportunity for all to experience the old and new elements of St. Patrick’s Campus as well as the fantastic views from the top floor of the library. Thank you to the Director of Alumni Relations, Ross Munnelly, for doing a great job in organizing this event.

 European Language Label Award for DCU LanguaCulture Space

In recognition of the success and impact of the DCU LanguaCulture Space project, Dr Aileen Pearson-Evans of SALIS received the European Language Label Award 2018 from the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton TD, at a recent ceremony in Croke Park hosted by Léargas.

Located on the Glasnevin Campus, the DCU LanguaCulture Space is an international hub, which was established in SALIS to provide an informal, relaxed, inclusive environment for international and domestic students to meet and share each other’s languages and cultures.

A unique space on campus, it promotes multilingualism and multiculturalism, encourages face-to-face communication in languages other than English, and supports students to move outside the comfort zone of their native languages to get to know fellow students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Its overarching aim is to increase students’ engagement with linguistic and cultural diversity within the university and society in general, and to facilitate positive interaction between different linguistic and cultural groups represented in the student body.

To that end, students, supported by SALIS staff, organise cultural events and language classes, multilingual speed-chatting, and multicultural comparative events for other students. All events are free of charge and open to the whole DCU student community.

You can read more about the LanguaCulture space on its Facebook page here.

 Recent Bereavements

In August and September, we sadly lost two beloved members of our DCU community.

Sorina Salveta, who passed away at the end of August, worked in DCU for over 10 years, mainly in the Finance Office, and will be greatly missed by her colleagues.

David Dunne, a PhD candidate in the School of Computing under the supervision of Martin Crane and Marija Bezbradica, passed away in September. David was a promising student, and his loss will be felt by all those who knew him.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the friends and families of Sorina and David.

May they both rest in peace.