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French teaching attacked in quality review

A new quality review report has heavily criticised the staffing and administrative structures governing the teaching of French in UCD’s School of Languages and Literatures.

The report, which was approved by the University’s Governing Authority at its meeting this month, was compiled by a review group composed of academic representatives from other UCD schools as well as members from NUI Maynooth and from the University of Ulster.

The 21-page report, compiled in April of this year, recognised “the work of the Head of School and the Heads of Subject, but notes with regret the reluctance of some members of French to fully engage in the School’s management structures.” This behaviour had, in the group’s view, “required the Head of School to act as Head of Subject for French, a situation the [review group] considers unsustainable.”

Subjects within each School in UCD are governed by an individual Head of Subject. The current Head of Subject for French, Professor Jean-Michel Picard, has been promoted to Head of School but has continued in his role as Head of Subject. It is understood that the remainder of the staff within the subject are reluctant to absorb Prof. Picard’s earlier responsibilities, which has left certain functions within the subject unfulfilled.

The review group continued that “situation with respect to the Head of French is not sustainable and to the detriment of the subject, its staff and students. In particular, if the School is to develop as an academic unit […] it is essential that all subjects fully participate in the management and development of the School.

“Hence the [review group] strongly recommends that the College Principal and Head of School should urgently address the issue of the Head of Subject for French and, if
necessary, bring the issue to the attention of senior University authorities.”

A University spokesperson downplayed the significance of the criticism, saying that the “quality assurance review of the School of Languages and Literatures [also] commended the school for the quality of its activities and the significant developments and enhancements in the school in recent years. The report, like all quality assurance reports, also made a wide range of specific recommendations for improvements that could be made. These recommendations are all being acted upon or have been acted upon.” The spokesperson stressed that the University “has no additional comment on any specific recommendation.”

All Schools within the University are subject to periodic review as part of the University’s quality assurance programme, which is intended to assist the University “in its role of developing and fostering a quality culture in all UCD’s activities”, and to fulfil the institution’s quality assurance requirements as laid out in the Universities Act.