National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway is set to give third and fourth year BA Connect with Journalism students a refund of their tuition fees following complaints about the quality of the course.
The complaints related to the third-year of the programme, when students engage in a six to eight-week placement in the field. Students reported being dissatisfied with the support they were given in finding a placement, alongside concerns about the overall management of the course.
NUI Galway confirmed the refund last week after a Student Complaints Board met in June. The board heard staff responses to the complaints, who recognised shortfalls in the organisation and administration of the course.
The Board issued a report to students, which found that it was “clear that there were significant shortcomings in the management of the third-year placement which had a detrimental impact on the student experience for the third year of programme”.
Third and fourth-year students on the journalism course were told by NUI Galway last week that they would receive a full year’s worth of tuition fees. Students receiving a grant from Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) are not eligible for the refund.
The BA Connect programme in NUI Galway is a four-year BA degree which allows students studying an Arts degree to study a specialist subject area, such as journalism, alongside two other arts subjects. Other specialist subjects include Children’s Studies, Creative Writing, and Latin American Studies.
The Board also recommended that alongside refunding fees, the Dean of the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies should review the third year of all BA Connect programmes as a priority. Additionally, the Board made recommendation that student feedback and communications with students should be improved.
According to senior academic Tom Felle, who was appointed to lead developments in the journalism programme, the course is set to become “much more robust in content and in terms of learning practical skills”.
“Students will still have the opportunity to take one Arts subject with Journalism, which is important as they will learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Felle continued.
The restructured course is also set to incorporate a stronger digital element alongside. NUI Galway also hopes to become the first Irish university to teach verification journalism (fact checking) with its restructured journalism course.
Prior to course restructuring, Students in the BA Connect programme would study their specialist subjects in combination with their Arts subjects for two years and their specialist subject exclusively in third year, before returning to complete their Arts subjects in fourth year. Under the new scheme, students will take on one Arts subject alongside Journalism.
Following a review in 2017, NUI Galway had been undertaking a restructuring of its Master’s degree in Journalism. A spokesperson for the university explained that “the ambitions of the relaunched programme are to produce graduates with up to date skills and specialisations suited to the contemporary world of journalism”.