RCSI tops for student engagement during pandemic

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RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has been named University of the Year for Student Engagement in the the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022, published in November.

RCSI won the inaugural award for University of the Year for Student Engagement primarily for its efforts to negate the impact of the pandemic on its students. The award recognises RCSI’s top performance among higher education institutions in Ireland across the measures where data is available for student engagement. Most notably, RCSI scored higher than all the ranked institutions in the Sunday Times analysis of the 2020 studentsurvey.ie.

RCSI initiatives to support students during the pandemic included the university’s simulation facilities being deployed to mimic a clinical setting when access to “live” clinical sites was restricted due to the pandemic. A satellite campus was established at Croke Park to accommodate 650 students, ensuring essential face-to-face interaction required for training health professionals continued within a hybrid model of teaching. Many students volunteered in intensive care units or became contract tracers, and examinations were brought forward by seven weeks in 2020 to allow early graduation for the university’s 300+ medical students.

To connect students with each other, learning community ‘bubbles’ were established in consultation with the student unions and class representatives. These allowed for small group teaching and safe lab access.

The university introduced Student Life representatives to encourage participation in online social activities and a Winter Holiday Programme supported those who were unable to travel home for the festive season. To protect students, an on-campus RCSI screening centre was set up along with pop-up centres at teaching hospitals where over 9,000 swab tests were carried out in the first 12 months of the pandemic.

Professor Cathal Kelly, Vice Chancellor of RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences said, “As a university that is wholly focussed on health, our priority has been to protect patients and frontline healthcare staff on all our clinical sites and to ensure that the education and training of the next generation of frontline healthcare workers was not disrupted.  Our ethos is to put the wellbeing of our health sciences students at the centre of everything we do.

“Never before in our lifetime have we faced a health crisis on a global scale as we have during the past 18 months. While many degree subjects can be delivered fully online, healthcare degrees present a distinct set of challenges because access to clinical settings and in-person patient interactions are essential to achieve learning outcomes.

“I am deeply grateful for the valuable contribution of the patients, clinicians, staff and management of our teaching hospitals that has enabled our students to continue their studies during this challenging time. The positive attitude and strong collegiate spirit demonstrated by everyone in the RCSI community has ensured our graduates can join the frontline as healthcare workers and continue essential health research.”