Students studying at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT ) are among the most satisfied in Ireland, according to The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 released at the weekend. The Good University Guide, now in its 17th year, is Ireland’s only league table ranking the country’s 21 higher education institutes against one another.
This student satisfaction rating comes off the back of a nationwide analysis, called the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE ), which looks at nine aspects of the student experience, including effective teaching practices, higher order learning, reflective and integrative learning, learning strategies, student-faculty interaction, overall quality of interactions, a supportive academic environment, collaborative learning and quantitative reasoning.
AIT has consistently performed well in each of these areas and has topped the list in collaborative learning and quality of interactions in this year’s guide. The award-winning institute, which took home the accolade The Sunday Times Institute of the Year in 2018, continues to enjoy the highest ISSE student response rate nationally (60.5 per cent versus 27.2 per cent ).
This is the first year The Sunday Times Good University Guide has taken the views of students into account since ISSE’s inception in 2013. Previously, this information fed into sector-level reports only but was introduced as a data point in keeping with international ranking and best practice norms. Other colleges to perform well in this area, include GMIT and the University of Limerick, the latter being named The Sunday Times University of the Year 2019.
Welcoming the findings, vice president for academic affairs and registrar, Dr Niall Seery, said: “Our continued success in the realm of student satisfaction is indicative of the quality of student experience on offer at our institute. We’ve worked tirelessly to cultivate a warm, welcoming and inclusive campus environment that lends itself to student well-being."
AIT has also outpaced its institute of technology competitors by a significant margin in the area of research. The educational powerhouse, defined by its commitment to academic excellence, rigour and applied education, achieved a score of 21 in this area, outstripping other IoTs by a minimum of five and a maximum of 19 points.
Emerging as the number one institute of technology nationally is a testament to the world-class research being carried out at AIT and of the contributions made by its academic staff and three research centres - Materials Research Institute (MRI ), Software Research Institute (SRI ), and Bioscience Research Institute (BRI ). The institute also houses two national technology gateways — APT, which specialises in polymer research and innovation, and COMAND, which focuses on delivering technology solutions for the software industry across multiple media platforms.
AIT has been making meaningful strides in pollinator decline, virtual learning environments, cybersecurity, and compostable plastic research, and is on the cutting edge of research into smart drug delivery systems and interventional cardiology care. Some of this work has been conducted in partnership with prestigious academic institutions including Stanford University and the University of Oxford.
According to Dr Seery: “As an institute, we’re finely attuned to the needs of industry and, as such, are involved in high quality applied research. We’re on the cutting edge of near-to-market engineering and science research that has the capacity to be applied commercially. We’re delighted to be recognised for our contributions in this area and to have our status as leaders in applied research and innovation in the technological higher education sector reaffirmed in The Sunday Times national league table.”
This responsiveness to the needs of industry has seen the institute focus its research and innovation outputs on core areas of growth, namely disruptive technologies, and put conduits in place to transfer knowledge in a manner that supports its regional and national industry partners. As the institute progresses in its ambition of achieving technological university status, this increased research capacity will aid in forging partnerships with other third levels, for whom research, innovation and enterprise are central tenets.
President of Athlone Institute of Technology, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said: “We are an extremely ambitious institute, demonstrable by our research output, and are already well on our way to furthering our status as leaders in applied education, industry-focussed research and innovation output, all of which is regionally impactful. We are fully committed to realising our vision of becoming a technological university, something that is bolstered by our continued academic success."