Peter McGuire and Brian Mooney write in Tuesday's Irish Times about ongoing difficulties at the American College Dublin (or the self-styled "Irish American University"). In a damning article, Damaged by a psychological blow, they report particularly about the loss of accreditation for one of their degree courses.
|Photo from Jeremiah's Gallery|
I am always saddened when I read about Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in Ireland getting into difficulty. The Irish Times reports that the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) "cannot award indefinite accreditation to a course when core standards were not met" - hence the loss of accreditation for the ACD Psychology degree. The College appears to be in debt and under-resourced, though the quality of teaching has not been called into question and has even been commended. In a recent review, HETAC "made no less than 37 recommendations for change" in a largely negative review (even giving out about ACD calling itself a "University"). HETAC is, in my experience, a very fair assessor of quality standards in Irish education.
ACD has let go some teaching staff - yet the PSI wanted the College (among other requests) to increase full-time teaching staff. There is an obvious difficulty on both sides here - the College is short of cash but the PSI want to College to spend more. You don't need an MBA to figure out that this situation could not last, and as usual students are left in the middle with no College, no course, and no degree.
In a hard-hitting piece - Brian Mooney (whom I have met once - a more dedicated and committed person in Irish Education you will not find) takes HETAC to task for continuing to accredit other degree programmes at the College (in fact he calls it a "scandal"). In putting students (rightly) first - Mooney finishes by stating "Unless this matter is resolved to the satisfaction of the current student body, I will never recommend the American College to any student I guide, and would encourage my colleagues not to do so either". Tough talking!
There is a lesson here for all HEIs. Loss of hard won accreditation is a huge blow for any programme, even though it is not easily lost - one of ACD's own staff states "It’s very difficult to lose accreditation". Concerns about quality in education must be addressed, but the simple fact is that it costs money to introduce and maintain quality. In my Project Management classes I teach about the PM Triangle of Constraints where I place "Quality/Scope" on one side of the triangle. The reason we use a triangle in PM is to explain that it is very difficult to change one side of the triangle without affecting the other two sides. It is almost impossible to improve quality while at the same time reduce costs and time - it is also very difficult to even maintain an acceptable level of quality. Fact - quality costs money, and it is no use demanding that more resources be poured into a programme if the money is not there.
I'm not for one second suggesting that quality should be compromised to save a few quid - but a new reality about funding and education in Ireland means that we all will have to do a lot more with a lot less. As a consequence, quality may inevitably suffer - even if only slightly. Colleges and Accreditation bodies may in the future need to knock their heads together to ensure that more can be got from less to the satisfaction of all.
Please note:- the views expressed above are my personal views and should not be viewed as representing any view of anyone else.