In September 2021 I was appointed as President of University College Cork, having served as Interim President since September 2020. In this role I have led the refreshing of the University Strategic Plan through a collaborative strategic prioritisation exercise – leading to the launch of UCC 2022 – Delivering A Connected University. The implementation of this plan is enjoying very significant staff engagement across the University and will deliver transformative changes to our core operations in response to geopolitical challenges, the escalating climate crisis and societal and economic pressures associated with the COVID‐19 pandemic, while positioning UCC for long‐term success.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19 I have continued to provide strategic leadership and direction on a university-wide programme of transformation in both student services and capital development (Hub, Sports and IT Infrastructure) through the Connected University Programme. This has delivered UCC’s new Hub building, a new student focussed centralised student academic services and an engaging digital hub for students. Although COVID-19 has been a global disruption, other disruptors such as climate change have not waned, and I am proud to continue to lead the implementation of UCC’s sustainability agenda and of our position at 8th globally in the Time Higher Education Impact Rankings and 9th in the UI Greenmetric World University Rankings (further detail below).
I previously served as Deputy President & Registrar, and was responsibile for academic affairs at UCC, including the development and implementation of our first ever Academic Strategy. In that role was supported by a large team of more than 250 dedicated professionals who deliver academic services to all students at UCC. I chaired UCC’s Athena Swan Steering Group, developing a new implementation plan which led to the renewal of UCC’s Bronze Athena Swan Award. As Chief Academic Officer of the University I, along with the Academic Leadership Forum, led the implementation of an academic transformation to enable UCC to deliver on our academic mission during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruption. The scope of this transformation was extensive, invovlving every element of engagement by students and staff including, but not limited to, learning and teaching, assessment, placement, international travel, student experience and wellbeing. Just prior to the COVID-19 crisis I led the review of the University through an Institutional Evaluation Programme by European University Association (EUA), a process which provided a detailed review of our institutional process. This rich engagement with an external panel from the EUA not only supported us in the development of UCC 2022, but will inform the preparation of our next institutional strategic plan.
Between 2014 and 2018 I served as Vice-President for Teaching & Learning at UCC. In this role I was charged with the re-structuring of the Office of the Vice-President for Teaching & Learning (OVPTL) to support staff in the provision of high quality teaching and student experience in line with the strategic objectives of UCC. To this end the Centre for Adult Continuing Education (ACE) was incorporated into the OVPTL. Ionad Baire, the former Teaching & Learning Centre at UCC, and the National Academy for the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning (NAIRTL) were merged to create the new Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning (CIRTL) to meet the needs of UCC in the areas of staff training, course provision and the scholarship of teaching and learning. The Quercus Talented Students Programme was created to provide scholarships for UCC students who demonstrate excellence in areas in addition to their academic performance. Finally, the Centre for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was established to provide a central portal to CPD courses provided by UCC and to support for Schools and Colleges in the provision of CPD courses. A Teaching & Learning Space Committee was created to improve the teaching infrastructure in classrooms, laboratories and online and to provide guidance for strategic investment in this area.
I am a member of the Top Management Programme Professional Reference Group with AdvanceHE. In 2014 I undertook the Top Management Programme for Leaders in Higher Education, and in 2011 I completed the Head of School Leaders Development Programme with the Leadership Foundation. The Top Management Programme works with senior managers in higher education to equip them to actively shape their universities, and to achieve higher day-to-day performance through individuals and teams. Prior to that I had completed their Heads of Schools leadership programme.
SUSTAINABILITY IN EDUCATION
An initiative of which I am particularly proud is the Green Campus Programme. At UCC the green agenda was shaped by students and I was founding co-chair of the Green Campus Forum. This inititiative aims to promote projects that enhance our green campus, and strives to put into practice our world-class research for the benefit of our environment. It has brought students and staff together run the University in the most sustainable way possible in line with UCC’s Strategic Plan. The success of this collaboration is evident many ways inlcuding UCC becoming the first third level institution worldwide to achieve the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard, and in 2010 becoming the first third level education institution worldwide to receive the Green Campus award. UCC is ranked 8th in the world by the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, placing it as Ireland’s leading university for its impact in working towards creating a sustainable future. UCC has also been ranked ninth in the world in a list of the most sustainable universities by the UI Greenmetric rankings achieving the highest position of any Irish Higher Education Institution.
In 2017 I was a finalist in the Green Gown Leadership Awards (UK & Ireland) for my role in creating and advancing sustainability objectives, including the delivery of UCC’s first ever Sustainability Strategy, which was published in 2016.
I was delighted to oversee the partnering of UCC with the German Federal Institute for Hydrology as co-hosts of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environment Monitoring System for Water Capacity Development Centre at UCC. The functions of the Centre are to promote and support water quality monitoring and assessment on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme and in co-operation with UN Water and its thematic priority area of Water Quality. The Centre will develop teaching programmes and will coordinate the work of all Irish agencies participating in GEMS/Water capacity development activities.
UCC CAMPUS HEALTHY FOOD INITIATIVE
In April 2016 I was honoured to launch a project under UCC’s Green Forum where UCC will become the first university to grow its own vegetables.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AT UCC
I am particularly interested in the use of technology cto advance teaching and learning and I have collaborated across UCC to develop online and blended learning programmes. To drive the digital transformation at UCC I established a Centre for Digital Education in 2015 to support the appropriate use of new technologies for teaching, both in the classroom and online. I also launched UCC Online, a platform providing access to online courses offered by UCC in a number of key areas, as a launch pad for innovation in the area of online education.
In response to a staff survey on Technology Enhanced Learning at UCC undertaken during the summer of 2014, I launched a series of training courses for staff at UCC who wished to use technology in their teaching. I also hosted a series of Digital Days where UCC staff could find out more about the potential for the use of technology to enhance their teaching and where those already using innovative teaching methods could showcase their work.
|Watch my presentation on eLearning at UCC on Digital Day here|
|Watch Lord David Puttnam’s presentation on Enhancing Educational Resilience in a Digital Age here|
In 2016 I led a project on ‘Transformation through Collaboration‘ for which I secured funding from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning. This project brought together together expertise in Southern Cluster of Higher Education Institutes to build digital literacy capacity among staff and develop more effective engagement with students through online tools. At the core of the project was the recruitment of staff as Digital Champions in each of the participant HEIs. These staff became champions for the improvement of digital literacy skills within their academic discipline, their department and ultimately across the Southern Cluster. The project documented the journey these champions took and developed a map for others who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Support and opportunities for staff to engage in professional development is critical in Higher Education. Continuous Professional Development for staff at UCC is delivered through the Office of Vice President for Teaching & Learning. Through targeted initiatives, and an increase in the range of courses offered under by leadership more than 70% of academic staff at UCC now hold a qualification in Teaching & Learning. These programmes enable UCC staff to engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning and this has a very positive impact on our staff through engaging with scholarship, engaging with colleagues and opportunities for reflection on teaching practice. We also worke with the department of human resources to provide opportunities for further professional development for all UCC staff. In 2015 I addressed the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning on the potential for impact at institutional level of investment in CPD for academic staff, and how we might get a measure of this impact.
THE STUDENT-CENTERED UNIVERSITY
Feedback from student surveys is critical to the ambition at UCC to continue to improve the student experience by providing students with a positive, enjoyable experience which meets their needs. Following detailed reviews of student engagement and student surveys at UCC I established a dedicated Student Surveys Office to connect with and listen to our students and place their perspective at the heart of decision making in UCC. This incudes the Irish Survey of Student Engagement. Effective student surveys deeply engage students in their experience, allowing them to reflect and provide feeback that enables us to consider their needs and identify areas that require improvement to better focus our efforts. It is important that we not just use the data collected by these surveys to listen to our students, but also to implement change based on the feedback collected. In February 2016 I co-hosted the inagural Student Experience Survey workshop at UCC to review the data and to close the loop between the issues raised and the follow-up in collaboration with the students. Information on developments in this area can be found at the You Said and We are Doing Together webpage.