University in preliminary talks to re-develop Horizons


THE UNIVERSITY have begun “preliminary” discussions on plans to re-develop the Horizons curriculum for the academic year beginning September 2010. It has been indicated that the university will consider narrowing the number of entry routes to ten “major programme” areas.

Dean of Academic Affairs, Prof. Gerry Doyle, explained that while details of the new curriculum have yet to be agreed, such a discussion is “on the cards”. Acknowledging that a number of Australian universities have reduced entry routes to large omnibus courses, Prof. Doyle stated that “there might be an advantage to that” within UCD.

Prof. Doyle illustrated that the “very powerful programmes are the omnibus programmes”, such as Engineering, Arts and Science. He said that they are “very popular and oftentimes, the very best students go in because they say ‘if I go into that, then I can make the choice within a university context’ which is sometimes better.”

Stating that the idea will be discussed “over the coming months” at the University Undergraduate Programmes Board, Prof. Doyle explained that the new curriculum will have to be “developed until we are convinced of the value of that against what we already have and [it will be about] trying to find agreement as to what is the best system.”

When asked about the re-development of Horizons, chair of UCD’s Academic Staff Association, John Dunnion stated that he was unaware of early discussions relating to narrowing the number of entry routes, adding that news of such talks was “puzzling”. However he did acknowledge that “Horizons can’t be seen as a finished project just yet… there are a few revisions to be made.”

Students’ Union (SU) Education Officer, Paul Lynam, echoed this, explaining that the conversation “hadn’t been brought up [to him] in any formal meetings”. Mr Lynam doesn’t believe that “we should rush it. I think the student body have been through a lot, since Horizons came in in 2005 and we needed to allow for the whole transformation. Mistakes from that arose because it was rushed and it didn’t look like best practice.”

Prof. Doyle stated that there is “more flexibilty” for students if entering through more omnibus routes, however he acknowledged that a change in entry routes would require “a very serious communications job”. Denying the need for an advertising push, Mr Lynam argued that the university should focus more on “word of mouth… not necessarily through a big advertising campaign”.

Stating that the Horizons curriculum is now “very stable”, Prof. Doyle explained that modules can be layered across the university to create “topical degrees”, describing this as an “extension of the cross-disciplinary system”. He believes that this system “will mushroom when people in different programmes see that we can develop something with another programme.”

The University Observer attempt to contacted the Registrar, Dr Philip Nolan, about the discussions to relaunch Horizons in 2010, but had not received a response at time of going to print.