Wednesday, March 07, 2012

How qualified is your lecturer?

This is not just a question for NCI students, but for all third-level students in Ireland. Gráinne Faller writes in yesterday's Irish Times and asks the question: How qualified is your lecturer? In the article, she summarises some of the statistics for the percentage of Masters and Doctorates among the Universities, and Institutes of Technology (IoTs) in Ireland. 
It turns out that the Universities have a high percentage of Academic staff who have PhDs, ranging from 92% in NUI Maynooth, to 61% in UL. In IoTs the figures are much lower - eg, 30% in DIT and 14% in Limerick IT.  Are you shocked by these figures (read more in Faller's article)? In NCI there are 13 full-time academic staff with PhDs (that I am aware of) - this is over a third of total full-time Faculty. As far as I know nearly all the rest have Masters.

My PhD was awarded by The University of Dublin (Trinity College) for my research into the biology of molluscs - not ideal preparation for teaching Project Management and Business Analysis you might say. So is a PhD necessary to teach at third level?

My answer to this is "Yes, but...". There are a lot of postgraduate students coming out of the Colleges - they have spent many years preparing for a career in Academia. People teaching on honours degree programmes should have at least a Masters, preferably a PhD. Anyone teaching at postgraduate level should have a PhD. But... there are not enough to go around - Ireland needs to educate more students to PhD level. A PhD does not make you a good teacher, but I believe it is a good starting qualification to work in this sector. There are also excellent teachers who do not have a PhD and are doing a great job - many have a lot of experience outside of Academia that will add greatly to a learning experience for students. The trick is to get the mix right.

So it is not an easy question to answer, but if "Ireland Inc" is to have a better education sector, then the percentages will have to go up - and by a lot.

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