UCC-logo-web-colour_NEWIn September 2020 I was appointed as Interim President at University College Cork. Prior to taking up that role I had served as Deputy President and Registrar since 2018. In that role I had responsibility for academic affairs at UCC, including the development and implementation of an academic strategy. I was supported by a large team of more than 250 dedicated professionals who deliver academic services to all students at UCC.

Between 2014 and 2018 I served as Vice-President for Teaching & Learning at University College Cork. In this role I was charged with the re-structuring of the Office of the Vice-President for Teaching & Learning (OVPTL) to support UCC staff in the provision of high quality teaching and student experience in line with the strategic needs 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 Continued Professional Development was established in February 2016 to provide a central portal to CPD courses provided by UCC and to provide 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.

AdvanceHEI am a member of the Top Management Programme Professional Reference Group with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, UK. 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.


GreenFlagUCC.jpgAnother initiative of which I am particularly proud is the Green Campus Forum at UCC. The green agenda at University College Cork was shaped and formed by students and I was the founding chair of the Green Campus Forum. It aims to promote projects which enhance our green campus and it strives to put into practice our world-class research for the benefit of our environment on a campus, national and global scale. This initiative brought staff and students at UCC together to work to have the University run in the most sustainable way possible in line with UCC’s Strategic Plan. As an outcome of this collaboration and hard work UCC was the first third level institution worldwide to achieve the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard, and in 2010 was the first third level education institute worldwide to receive the Green Campus award. UCC has been ranked fourth in the world in a list of the most sustainable universities, achieving the highest result in Ireland. The Green Flag status is now the centre piece in UCC’s overall Green Campus strategy to run UCC in the most sustainable way possible. University College Cork has received a number of awards for its Green Campus initiatives. These range from awards for energy conservation and travel planning to the Green Flag award which recognises the totality of UCC’s efforts to promote the green agenda.

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.

The UCC and United Nations flags flying together at the launch of the GEMS/Water capacity Development Centre at UCC


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.

UCConlineI am particularly interested in how technology can be used to advance teaching and learning in all fields and my current role intersects with a number of areas across UCC to develop online and blended learning programmes at UCC. To drive the digital transformation at UCC I established an Instructional Design team at UCC 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 wholly online courses offered by UCC in a number of key areas, as a launch pad for a larger scale initiative in the area of online education provision by UCC. The delivery of online courses at UCC will be optimised through partnership with Wiley, a collaboration that I negotiated in 2015. The first online course arising from this partnership (Master of Public Health) was launched in January 2016, with the next courses set to launch in September 2016.

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 wish to use technology in their teaching. I also hosted a Digital Day 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. The keynote address at this event was delivered by Ireland’s Digital Champion, David Puttnam.

JOHtalk Watch my presentation on eLearning at UCC on Digital Day here
DPtalk 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, 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. This reflects on our students and more generally on our university community. We are also working with our department of human resources to provide opportunities for further professional developments for our other colleagues in UCC.  The first step towards building an accredited programme for UCC colleagues is the accreditation of lean or continuous improvement, with an ambition to provide further opportunities for staff development. 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.

With  some of the Certificate in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education recipients at UCC, 2016

It is an exciting time in Higher Education, with much emphasis on the modernisation of higher education. The challenge for us here is to achieve an appropriate level of modernisation while retaining the value of our educational heritage. In 2015 I hosted a workshop on ‘The Future University’ at UCC and you can view two of the interesting talks from this event below. The first is by Professor Robert Coelen, Professor of Internationalisation of Higher Education, Stenden University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. The second is by  Professor Shirley Congdon, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford, UK.

RCtalk The Future of (Internationalisation of Higher Education. Professor Robert Coelen
SCtalk The Future University. Personalising Learning and Teaching: A Whole Systems Approach

I am responsible for the involvement of UCC students in The Irish Survey of Student Engagement. This is a national survey, undertaken annually, which aims is to provide benefits to each institution and its students by helping to improve feedback and appropriate action. 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. The UCC Student Experience Survey is also undertaken annually and aims to place the student at the centre of our focus. Good student surveys deeply engage students in their experience, allowing them to reflect and provide feeback that allows us to consider the needs of the students and to identify the 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 first Student Experience Survey workshop at UCC to review the preliminary data from the 2015 survey and to close the loop between the issues raised and the follow-up. ‘Tell us – we take action‘ was the caption for the survey, and this workshop was aimed at developing recommendations in collaboration with the students to take action and plan forward.