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RCSI awarded University of the Year 2022 for Student Engagement by The Sunday Times Good University Guide

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RCSI awarded University of the Year 2022 for Student Engagement by The Sunday Times Good University Guide

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

RCSI wins 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-plus 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, commented: “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. 

“Since the outset of the pandemic, we re-doubled our focus on engaging with our students to ensure they had the high-quality education resources and the support needed to cope with the challenges they faced. By working in partnership with students, I am proud to see how our vibrant student community has remained engaged with their studies, with our final years going on to join the frontline as healthcare workers in Ireland and their home countries across the globe. I would like to thank everyone in the RCSI community who has made this award possible.”

Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide, said: “What differentiated the very best universities from the simply good during the pandemic was the ability to look beyond pure mitigation when it came to the student experience. The highest achievers, like the RCSI, set a more challenging objective and aimed to deliver for students in a different – but equally high-quality – manner.

“The shadow campus at Croke Park was typical of the vision the RCSI brought to bear on the pandemic, allowing students to study in as normal conditions as possible, while the opportunities to volunteer on the front line both prevented student isolation and helped them engage directly with the pandemic through their chosen profession. This was higher education at its very best – of benefit to society and students alike.”

The Sunday Times Good University Guide provides the definitive rankings for Irish third-level institutions, together with profiles of each institution and a view from students of what it is like to study there. Although RCSI is not included in the third level rankings due to its size and specialist nature, its performance across the measures where data is available shows it to be among the very top higher education institutions in Ireland.