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Extra-curricular credits piloted this semester

A scheme offering students academic credits in recognition of their contribution to the extra-curricular life of the university may be in place as early as this semester.

UCD Students’ Union are hopeful that the scheme might be introduced on a pilot basis later this semester, ahead of a full official introduction in time for September 2010.

Whilst recognising the participation of qualifying students in college life, the system – formally known as ‘service learning’ – is also geared towards encouraging more students to contribute to UCD’s clubs, societies, student media and interest groups. The module will take the place of one elective module, with five academic credits awarded to successful students.

Students’ Union Education Officer, Donnacha Ó Suilleabháin, told The University Observer that the introduction of a full service learning option was a “hugely complicated” issue, and explained that each individual student enrolling in the option would be assessed on an case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of their involvement in student life.

“Each of the students has to be taken on and given a tailored programme which maintains academic standards and gives specific assessments to each role they take on within university life – whether it’s volunteering, working with the paper, or so on,” Ó Suilleabháin explained, adding that this workload would require the appointment of a full-time academic staff member.

“There needs to be a full-time person employed by the university to look after this one programme, which might only have an intake of 30 to 40 students in the first year – but with the current recruitment position in the university we’re not in a position to take anyone on.”

This appointment cannot currently proceed because of the nationwide recruitment embargo within the public service, which extends to UCD under its status as a national university. However, The University Observer understands that this embargo may be relaxed in the aftermath of the national Budget in December, allowing UCD to designate a staff member with exclusive responsibility for overseeing the rollout of the scheme.

It is also understood that students would have to apply for extra-curricular accreditation in advance of the semester, and that participating students would be required to undertake a role they have not previously been involved in during their time in UCD. Where appropriate, a record or portfolio of work completed over the year would have to be submitted in order to be successfully awarded the credits.

It is further believed that a team from Queen’s University Belfast, where a parallel scheme is already in place, are due to arrive in UCD in the coming weeks to assist with the rollout of the pilot scheme. Ó Suilleabháin said he was “very, very confident” that a staff member could be appointed to the administrative role in the coming weeks, enabling a pilot scheme to be offered later in the semester.

The system would mirror the offering in Dublin City University known as the ‘Uaneen module’, where students can currently gain academic credits for extra-curricular activity.