Peer Review Group Report

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University College Dublin,

National University of Ireland, Dublin

Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement

of Academic Departments

Peer Review Group Report

Department of Irish Folklore
Academic year 2002/2003

June 2003

Table of Contents

Page No.

Members of the Peer Review Group (PRG)


Chapter 1

The Department of Irish Folklore


Chapter 2

The Departmental Self-assessment


Chapter 3

The Site Visit


Chapter 4

The Peer Review


Chapter 5

Findings of the Peer Review Group


Chapter 6

Response to the QA/QI Peer Review Group Report by the Department of Irish Folklore Co-Ordinating Committee


Appendix 1

Timetable of the site visit






Professor Brian Graham

University of Ulster


Dr Pádraig Ó Héalaí

National University of Ireland, Galway


Professor Ann Helene Bolstad Skjelbred

Norsk Etnologisk Gransking, Oslo


Professor Peter Clarke

University College Dublin,

National University of Ireland, Dublin


Mr John Coman

University College Dublin,

National University of Ireland, Dublin


Professor Mary Clayton

University College Dublin,

National University of Ireland, Dublin


Ms Pauline Corrigan

University College Dublin,

National University of Ireland, Dublin


1.1 Location of the Department
The Department of Irish Folklore ("the Department" or "DIF") at University College Dublin, National University of Ireland, Dublin ("UCD" or "the University") is the only Department of Irish Folklore in Ireland. In academic terms it is located in both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Celtic Studies. In physical terms, it is mainly located on the ground floor of the John Henry Newman Building on the Belfield Campus. There is a total of 15 offices/rooms in the Department on the Belfield Campus, which accommodate academic, archival, technical and administrative personnel. In addition, the Department occupies four offices/rooms in Earlsfort Terrace.

1.2 Staff
The Self-assessment Report (SAR), drafted by the Departmental Co-ordinating Committee, provides (at Tables 1.1 – 1.5) summary details of the 14 staff in the Department. Of these, four are temporary staff funded by research grants. Of the permanent positions, four are academic staff, two are Executive Assistants, one is a technical post (job-sharing) and the remainder are archivists/collectors.

    1. The Irish Folklore Collection

The Department of Irish Folklore is the successor organisation to the Irish Folklore Commission (1935 – 1971). In 1971, responsibility for the collection, preservation, study and exposition of Irish Folklore Commission material was transferred to a newly created Department of Irish Folklore in University College Dublin. The Department now exercises a triple mandate that includes:

  • Administering and maintaining the Irish Folklore Commission collection

  • Continuing the work of the Irish Folklore Commission

  • Teaching and scholarly work in the area of Irish Folklore

1.4 Teaching, Courses and Programmes
The Department pioneered the teaching of Irish Folklore at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in 1973 and continues to offer students a range of courses in Irish and comparative folklore. Undergraduate courses are not offered currently by the Department at First year BA level. To be admitted to the Department as a Second year student, undergraduate students complete an application process. Students are admitted following interviews held at the beginning of the academic year and must possess a good reading knowledge of Irish and also reasonable marks in their three First Arts subjects. This Irish language competency is considered essential since much of the Department’s material is in the Irish language.
The Department also offers a H.Dip. in Irish Folklore and admitted students are expected to hold a primary degree and also possess a good reading knowledge of Irish or to take steps to acquire such.
The Department also has M.Litt and PhD students. In terms of overall UCD student numbers, the numbers of students registered within the Department is small relative to other departments in the University. For example, in the current academic year (2002/03) two undergraduate students were interviewed and accepted as second-year students to Irish Folklore and three students are currently taking the third-year Irish Folklore for the BA degree.
From the SAR (pages 34/35), the following table summarises the number of graduates since the inception of the Department:

Primary degrees in Irish Folklore


H.Dip in Irish Folklore


MA Degree


M.Litt Degree


PhD Degree


Source: SAR
One consequence of the small student numbers in the Department is that the overall cost per student is one of the highest in the Faculties of Arts, and Human Sciences. Unfortunately, the calculation of “cost per student” has many limitations and it is obvious that it cannot reflect the fullness and diversity of any department, especially the Department of Irish Folklore that fulfils an archival, teaching and scholarly mandate. Nevertheless this blunt statistic is gaining increasing importance in the allocation of cash and human resources within University College Dublin.

2.1 The Co-ordinating Committee

A Pre-assessment Group was set up within the Department in March 2002 and this led to the formation of a Departmental QA/QI Co-ordinating Committee in April 2002. The individual members of the Committee were:

Professor Séamas Ó Catháin (Head of Department and Chairman of Committee)

Professor Patricia Lysaght

Dr Ríonach Uí Ógáin (on leave of absence from September 2002)

Ms Bairbre Ní Fhloinn

Mr Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh (co-opted September 2002)

Ms Anna Bale

Ms Déirdre Hennigan

Ms Eithne MacMillan (post graduate student)

Dr James F. Collins (Archive/Library user representative)
The PRG noted the composition and membership of the Departmental Self-assessment QA/QI Co-ordinating Committee and noted that it was representative of all levels of staff (professor, archivist/collector, lecturer and administrative) and all programmes. The PRG was satisfied that it conformed to guidelines laid down by the UCD Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement Standing Committee.
2.2 Methodology adopted
The Departmental Committee met on numerous occasions and the QA/QI process was also discussed with those departmental staff not on the Departmental Committee throughout the period. Also, a draft of the SAR was circulated to all Department staff. The responsibility for preparatory tasks and for separate chapters of the SAR was assigned to various members of the Department staff.
In addition, the Departmental Committee held three meetings with the two facilitators (Professor Peter Clarke and Mr John Coman) during the self-assessment period. The dates of these meeting were: 15th April, 16th October 2002 and 16th January 2003.
The PRG’s detailed analysis of the workings of the Department of Irish Folklore, of the SAR documentation and of the site visit is summarised in Sections 3, 4 and 5 of this PRG report.

3.1 Timetable
The itemised timetable for the PRG site visit is enclosed in Appendix 1 of this report. The visit took place between the 7th and 9th April 2003. The PRG wishes to record its gratitude and appreciation for the assistance that it received from members of staff of the Department, from University Officers, the Deans of the Faculties of Arts and of Celtic Studies and from various undergraduate and postgraduate students who were available to help the PRG to compile this report.
The PRG also acknowledges the use of the library (which, regrettably resulted in the closure of that facility for the duration of the site visit), and the regular supply of refreshments.
3.2 Methodology
The work of the PRG may be described by the following sequence of events:

  1. Reading of and gaining familiarity with the SAR circulated to the PRG by the QA/QI office, in advance of the site visit.

  2. A meeting of the 7 members of the PRG on the evening of Sunday, 6th April 2003, together with UCD’s Director of Quality Assurance, and UCD’s Vice President for Faculties (Planning and Development), in order to discuss the SAR, to formulate strategy and assign responsibility in relation to component tasks of the Peer Review Process.

  3. Formal site visits by the PRG throughout 7th to 9th April 2003, which included meetings with the Departmental Co-ordinating Committee, the Registrar, Bursar, Head of Department, Deans of the Faculty of Arts and of the Faculty of Celtic Studies, a representative from the Department of Archives, academic and administrative staff, selected undergraduate and postgraduate students.

  4. Private meetings of the PRG during the site visit, followed by discussion and compilation of key material presented.

  5. Preparation of a preliminary draft of the PRG report that formed the basis of the exit presentation to, initially, the Head of Department, followed by a presentation to which all members of the Department were invited.

  6. Thereafter, all members were involved in the drafting and reviewing subsequent written drafts. The final report was drafted and agreed upon by all members of the PRG.

3.3 General Comments
The PRG found the site visit, together with its wide range of discussions, to be a most beneficial and informative process, and allowed members of the PRG to see, at first hand, the national and international significance of the archive holdings of the Department. It was also crucial in facilitating opinions on the overall conditions and appropriateness of the physical conditions of the Department.
The PRG was impressed at the level of scholarship that existed within the Department and the quantity and quality of published research output and this performance compared favourably with other departments within the Faculty of Arts. However, the PRG are aware of the very low student numbers and the most favourable staff/student ratio that exists within the Department. In terms of teaching, the PRG were impressed by the enthusiasm of its students for the discipline, but also noted that the subject of Irish Folklore was not offered through the Department for First Arts students.
The PRG was extremely disappointed at the overall quality and quantity of the physical facilities available to what can only be described as a significant National Asset (i.e. the Archive collection) which is unique in the world. Indeed, it seems that some of the security arrangements for this collection are defective.
While visitation rights are available, free of charge, for access to the Archives housed by the Department, the PRG noted, with regret, that this resource was available only during the week-day afternoons, which is a shorter time period than for other National collections e.g. National Archives in Bishop Street, National Library, National Museum etc.
Also, most departments within the University now have their own Web sites to publicise their activities to their University, national and international audiences – actual and potential. It is hoped that the Department’s Web site will shortly be available to better publicise its activities and resources.

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