RCSI Set to Get University Status 235 Years After it Started Training Surgeons

Reforming legislation also increases powers of regulator over English language schools

Set to become a university: the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland building on York Street, Dublin 2. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Set to become a university: the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland building on York Street, Dublin 2. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Marie O’Halloran for The Irish Times

More than 200 years after it started training surgeons, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) is set to become a university following passage of reforming education legislation.

The legislation increases the powers of the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) the agency which has responsibility for quality and qualifications in further and higher education.

The Bill strengthens its role as the regulator of English language schools. QQI was established in 2012 as the external assessor of standards of teaching and qualifications for third level institutions.

The legislation also establishes a fund that English language schools will be obliged to contribute to if they provide courses of three months or more.

The fund aims to offset losses for students and staff in the event of a language school collapsing. The establishment of the fund follows the abrupt closure of a number of language teaching schools in recent years leaving students without funds they had paid.

Learn English

An estimated 140,000 students come to Ireland every year to learn English.

Under reforms passed by the Dáil and Seanad a new international education mark (IEM) will be established to strengthen the terms and conditions of employment in the sector.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomed the passage of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training)(Amendment) Bill, which was passed by the Seanad after amendments from the Dáil.

‘Very specific criteria’

She said that “once the QQA Amendment Bill becomes law it will allow RCSI to apply for permission to describe itself as a university.

“The Act will set out a number of very specific criteria which RCSI will have to meet. These are specified in the Bill.

“I expect to receive an application for the RCSI shortly after the enactment and commencement of the Act. I will review the application and as required by the legislation consult the HEA [Higher Education Authority].”

Under the provisions of the Bill a higher education institution that meets particular eligibility criteria, such as having statutory degree-awarding powers and an established reputation for excellence, will be eligible to apply for authorisation from the Minister of the day to describe itself as a university.

Representatives of the RCSI were in attendance in the visitors’ gallery for the passage of the Bill.

World-class research centre opens at University of Limerick

Investment of €86 million attracts leading scientists into UL’s Bernal Institute

Prof Don Barry:  Bernal Institute at UL is academia, government and industry all working together to create a “gamechanger”. Photograph: Sean Curtin Press 22
Prof Don Barry: Bernal Institute at UL is academia, government and industry all working together to create a “gamechanger”. Photograph: Sean Curtin Press 22

New drugs, better batteries and new materials are just a few of the discoveries expected to emerge from a €86 million investment in a new research institute at the University of Limerick.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was on hand on Monday to formally open the Bernal Institute, a huge multipurpose research space that will bring a number of existing institutes into a single location.

The Bernal Institute will provide the space but it will also have the personnel to advance Ireland’s research efforts.

The institute will house more than 260 researchers, including six world experts who already hold Bernal research chairs and who lead teams making discoveries in crystal engineering, fluid mechanics and microscopy among other disciplines.

These chairs between them have already attracted an additional €25 million in research funding and 70 companies have already formed partnerships with scientists who will be based at the institute.

Pharmaceuticals and materials

“The institute will ensure that Ireland stays at the cutting edge of research and innovation,” the Taoiseach said at the formal opening. Advances in pharmaceuticals, medicines and materials will help tackle great world challenges facing society, he said.

The Bernal Institute was a great example of academia, government and industry all working together to create a “gamechanger”, said UL president Prof Don Barry.

Funding for the institute has come from Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Higher Education Authority.

It is named for John Desmond Bernal, an influential scientist who was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. He was a pioneer in the use of X-ray crystallography to study structures in molecular biology.

University of Limerick appoints senior UCD academic as new president

Prof Des Fitzgerald’s appointment strong signal UL is seeking to move up in world rankings

Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease. Photograph: UL press office
Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease. Photograph: UL press office

Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease.

Prof Des Fitzgerald, a vice-president of UCD and of the country’s highest paid academics, is set to be appointed as the new president of University of Limerick.

The appointment sends a strong signal that UL is seeking to boost its research capacity and move up in world university rankings.

Prof Fitzgerald playing a central role in transforming UCD’s research performance and helped develop a range of international partnerships, in particular in the US and China.

Announcing the appointment on Thursday, UL’s chancellor Mr Justice John Murray said Prof Fitzgerald was a widely-respected scholar with an enviable international research reputation and experience in a number of highly-ranked universities.

“I know I speak for the governing authority and the broader UL community in stating how much we look forward to working with Prof Fitzgerald to build on UL’s fine foundations as we realise the institution’s vision and objectives for the future,” he said.

In a statement, Prof Fitzgerald said he was honoured to lead UL and looked forward to working with colleagues and partners to secure a strong national and international academic profile.

“UL has unique strengths, its staff, students, alumni and friends; its powerful local, national and international partnerships; its stunning campus and its excellent reputation,” he said.

“I want UL to establish and lead pioneering initiatives that will deliver real impact in a range of important areas that are critical to Ireland’s future and the future of the mid west.”

Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease.

He joined UCD in 2004 after being head-hunted by the college’s then president Hugh Brady from a senior leadership role in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

In 2009 it emerged that he was Ireland’s highest paid academic, with a salary of €409,000 per year.

However, his salary fell to just over €260,000 following cost-cutting and pressure from outside the college to reduce his salary.