Make your student experience count: the Irish Survey of Student Engagement 2014.

Sean O’Reilly, Project Manager and joint co-ordinator for the Irish Survey of Student Engagement 2014, discusses the importance of student feedback on their third-level education experience.  He looks at how the invaluable information provided by the student survey will affect the future of third-level education in Ireland.

A new national student survey opens in 30 higher education institutions in February and March 2014. The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) has its first full roll-out in 2014 following a successful pilot in 26 institutions in 2013. This is the first national survey of student engagement in Ireland and is the first system-wide survey of its kind in Europe. The ISSE is open to first year undergraduates, final year undergraduates and taught postgraduate students. Each participating institution has selected the most appropriate three-week period to open the survey for its students.

The survey is designed to collect information on student engagement. This will provide a valuable and informed insight into students’ experience of third-level education. Student engagement with college life is important to their overall development of key capabilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, writing skills, team work and communication skills.

More than 12,700 students took part in the pilot in 2013 and one of the questions discussed the survey itself. Here are some of their responses:

 “The survey was pretty interesting and made me reflect on my own academic year and my performance during classes. Overall it’s a very good survey.”

“I think the survey is a great idea. It is very important to allow the students to voice their opinions and I would appreciate it if the survey is asked to every student before they complete their studies.”

“I think it would be important that the results would be made available not only to university staff but to students as well.”

“I’m happy with this survey so far, and I hope the information provided will actually lead to action, more so than just providing the college with information.”


What’s the survey for?

It is recognised that students have a major contribution to make in the design of curricula, and in reviewing and providing feedback on their college experiences. Good student feedback on engagement and satisfaction will contribute to students experiencing an education that is relevant and responsive to their personal development and growth as fully engaged citizens within society. Both aspects are vital to a student’s progression into the labour market, harnessing their third-level education experience to guide their future career path. For further information on career development, visit

The main objective of this project is to develop a valuable source of information on the Irish third-level education system, based directly on student experiences. The results of the survey are intended to inform discussions at institutional level, while also informing national discussion and policy.

The project is co-sponsored by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Institutes of Technology Ireland (IOTI), the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). It is managed through a collaborative partnership structure representing participating institutions and sponsoring organisations.

Further information, including results from the 2013 pilot survey and dates for 2014, is available at

Careers with languages: A world of opportunities


In an increasingly globalised environment, the opportunities for a career with languages continue to grow, as Ireland stands as an attractive location for international companies to locate major headquarters. But it’s not just multi-national firms that have a requirement for graduates and jobseekers with more than one language. Hundreds of indigenous well-established companies and organisations, in addition to exciting start-up firms, are also offering opportunities for those with language fluency. Languages broaden your horizons, as well as you career opportunities, making you a true global citizen, able to work abroad, or work with foreign companies and clients from Ireland. Employers are constantly looking for graduates with the right mix of language fluency, and the upcoming GRADchances Languages Fair aims to address this issue, placing employers and suitable jobseekers face-to-face in an exciting, opportunity-filled event.

Latvian national, and DIT student, Laila Tamosune, speaks six languages and is looking to harness this fluency to work in the business or diplomatic spheres.

My educational background is in Law, having studied it in my native country, Latvia. Currently I am a final year student, studying Tourism management, in DIT.  In school I studied a variety of languages including German, Russian and English. I continued my studies in English and German during my undergraduate degree in Latvia. During my time in DIT, I have undertaken further classes in German. My native language is Latvian, but I also have a spoken knowledge of Lithuanian and can speak some Ukrainian.

Currently I have a part time job with Aspects of Ireland, a destination management company, which I managed to secure following an internship. However, my degree is my priority at this moment. Ideally, I am aiming to work for a multinational company or in the diplomatic service. I am looking for a position where I can contribute with my language skills and also apply my professional qualifications. It is growth and progression within any organisation which is most important to me. I believe language skills are great assets that help to distinguish me in the current challenging labour market.

In today’s globalised society, languages are essential for effective communication.  In terms of employment, in particular in the Tourism and IT sectors, languages can be viewed as a distinct advantage.

Acquiring a language based degree allows the modern workforce to communicate freely with existing and potential clients and customers, which in turn generate trust and appreciation, and returns custom and loyalty. The importance of language skills cannot be underestimated, especially in Ireland, where we have the European HQ of such global companies as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, to name but few.

Aisling McNiffe of Financial Services Ireland has worked and lived in five different countries, due to her passion for languages and her ability to be able to work in another language.

For the past decade my career has primarily been based around European and public affairs. Having always loved travelling, visiting new countries and acquiring a passion for European affairs, it seems to have been an ideal career path for me.

I studied European Studies, French, Italian, History and Politics in Trinity College Dublin.

Having both French and Italian were useful for working in the European Union. During my first year at college, I worked locally for a MEP during the holidays, using my language skills to analyse an array of French documents.  During Erasmus in Strasbourg, both my French and Italian proved to be valuable while working in an international office there.

Learning languages has opened the world to me. I have lived both in Italy and France for Erasmus. Immersion in a language, by living in the country is so important. It’s the only way you put what you’ve learned into practice. Having studied languages further enabled me to undertake a bilingual Masters in EU affairs and I applied to the College of Europe in Bruges in Belgium.

In 2009 I moved to Brussels and worked in a trade association that represented Engineering Professors across Europe.  A lot of our members and board members were based in Italy- therefore having studied the language proved to be valuable when working with our Italian colleagues. You earn someone’s trust sooner when you can both speak their language and display an interest in their culture.

Studying a language alongside a technical skill is an invaluable combination in my opinion.  If I’d studied languages alone, apart from translation, it’s possible that not as many doors would have been open to me. So I’d advise people to consider doing for example, business and a language.

In 2010, my next career step brought me to Edinburgh, where I worked in the UK Civil Service in the Scottish Government. Working on Common Fisheries Reform, I attended EU working group meetings in Brussels, where we would work in negotiating the future of fishing across Europe. The head of the European Commission delegation was Italian, and again it helped that I spoke the language, for those social conversations where a lot of the real business is done.

In May 2012 I moved back to the Irish civil service to work on the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU. This position allowed me to practice my French while I learned more about public relations and communications.

All of this enabled me to get my current job working for Financial Services Ireland in 2013, who represent Banks, insurers, fund administrators and managers and other financial services providers.  What’s interesting is that I didn’t think there would be much of an international focus to this job. However,I found out a lot of Italian companies base themselves in Ireland as we have a highly educated workforce and therefore an attractive place to do business. Therefore having a background in languages, once again, has proved to be useful for me in my current role.

It’s thanks to languages and an interest in the EU and public policy that I’ve had a wonderful career so far- living in different countries, different continents and working in the public sector, non for profit sector and now private sector!

Register for the gradireland languages fair online at

Evening courses: The right balance for you?

Part time evening courses can be a great option for anyone looking to upskill and improve their career prospects without having to change too much in their daily lives. 

evening courses

Choose the right course for you

As there’s a large variety of part-time evening courses available it’s important that you track down the one that’s right for you – whether that’s in terms of the accreditation you get, the type of skills covered during the course, or even the timing and location of lectures.

Many people have taken to MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) but these qualifications tend to come unaccredited so that’s something important to look out for when applying for courses. Look at who would be awarding the qualification, is it FETAC or HETAC for example?


Time management is usually a big factor with those who decide to study part-time. Evening courses allow you to manage your time effectively. Depending on your course the timetable may vary but the majority of courses run from 18:30-21:30 one evening a week, allowing you to spend your daytime and evenings as you wish free from lectures.

A part time course could give you that confidence boost needed to either seek a promotion or even alter your career path, now that you have that extra qualification. Your course may require you to participate in group course work, presentations etc all of which will help build your confidence.

Combining work and study

For those of us out in the working world it’s just not often practical to get time to upskill and, as a result, full-time education isn’t an option. Part-time courses represent a more practical alternative, they are also more cost effective too, but it helps if your company might be willing to contribute towards the expense of the course.

Gaining work experience is absolutely vital in improving your employability status. According to an article in gradireland’s Ireland’s 100 Leading Graduate Employers, 41.7 percent of employers perceived work experience to be more important than postgraduate study. An evening course provides a student with the time needed to gain valuable work experience that perhaps a full time student may not have.

Depending on the type of course you choose, some of the assignments are transferable to your work-life. For example in part-time business courses you will often be asked to draft up specific reports or procedures to implement directly into a business that you choose. The documents you draft tend to be aimed for use in real life applications and as a result many businesses tend to adopt practices their employees may have learned while completing their part-time course.

It is a known fact that qualifications certainly give potential employees the edge when it comes to candidate selection for job interviews or indeed for promotions. If you want to increase your chance of securing a job, especially within a particular industry, the more specialised your qualifications are, the more knowledge you are deemed to have regarding that particular field.

The financial burden of university fees can often times hamper your determination to pursue further qualifications. As a full time student, your time is restricted, and therefore maintaining a job can be overwhelming and sometimes near impossible.  A yearlong part-time course will provide you with a qualification without the commitment to years of university fees, while giving you the necessary time to maintain a job. This could help eliminate the financial stress that comes with student life.

Additional qualifications demonstrate aptitude and application, which can stand to your benefit when discussing remuneration

Online learning is increasingly accepted as a method of course delivery.  Digital platforms such as Moodle and Blackboard are being used alongside live classroom conferencing and distance learning part-time options are now available for those who don’t have easy access to a college campus.

Full time education isn’t your only option. A part time course will allow you to gain an internationally recognised qualification at times that are convenient to you while still maintaining a steady income.

For more information on further study visit

Daniel McMahon is an Education Officer at the Communications & Management Institute in Dublin. CMI provide a wide range of part time Diploma courses including evening or night classes and distance learning courses.

Is your future career in your inbox?


One of the cornerstones of gradireland’s offering to students and recent graduates is our email service, whereby students can register their details with gradireland in order to be sent relevant jobs, internships and careers information direct to their email address. This is a sophisticated operation – the targeting is vital so as not to ‘spam’ or inundate gradireland users with inappropriate or irrelevant emails, yet a large part of gradireland’s raison d’etre is to make our users aware of the career opportunities that exist for them in their chosen or associated fields, and this in itself necessitates the sending of a large volume of emails.

As a responsible publisher, we track the performance of these emails carefully, and our analysis of the last year (2013) has thrown up a couple of interesting facts.

Of those who unsubscribed from gradireland’s email service in 2013, over 39% did so because they “have a new job and no longer require the service”. This is our most desirable outcome, so for this to be the most significant unsubscribe factor is especially heartening, and suggests that a large proportion of our users are being sent graduate roles that they are interested in and qualified to do – and that they are being successful in applying for these positions. Further analysis of unsubscribing users reflects the increase in emigration amongst Ireland’s youth that has been precipitated by the economic crisis of recent years. 13.4% of users who unsubscribed did so because they “have left Ireland and no longer require the service”. A further 10% unsubscribed as they are “studying a postgrad and no longer require the service” as they are not actively job-seeking.

In addition to tracking users who unsubscribe from our email service, we also rigorously analyse ‘open rates’ and ‘click through’ rates of our emails, to check engagement levels with our users remain high. This is another key indicator in ensuring that we are sending useful and pertinent information, which gradireland users can then use to make important, informed career decisions. Our 2013 analysis was positive in this light, with open and click through rates continuing to rise despite increased volumes of emails being sent as we grow our user database (which now stands at over 130,000 students and recent graduates). Open rates of targeted emails are usually 25%+, with click-through rates (often applications) of 3-5%. Both of these indicators are above industry-standard for these types of mailings.

Finally, and importantly, feedback from graduate employers indicates that at least 60% of applications they receive for their graduate positions come directly through gradireland. So the message is simple – if you are a student and you want to know what graduate careers are out there for you, what internship opportunities might exist, what careers fairs and other specialist events are taking place, then the emails work. So make sure you are registered with gradireland and we will do our best to keep sending you relevant and interesting careers information and graduate opportunities.

We would love to add YOU to our list of graduates unsubscribing from our service because you “have a new job and no longer require the service”.

If you’ve not already done so, register for gradireland’s email service online at