Press Release

Issue date: 14 September 2003

University College Cork is “University of the Year” - 14 September 2003

MedalUniversity College Cork, Ireland's leading research institution, has won the Sunday Times Irish University of the Year Award for 2003-2004.

The award recognises UCC's continuing pre-eminence amongst the Irish universities in securing research funding (Euro 37 million in 2001/02), the excellence of its academic results, and its role as a cosmopolitan university with one of the best student mixes in the State. The assessment was based on a range of qualities, including: examination results, robustness of the institution, the student experience, and the role played by the university on the regional, national and world stages.

“In all these areas, UCC is amongst the top performers. It is a cosmopolitan university with one of the country's best student mixes, with 17.8% being mature, 10% from overseas and 15% entering without the standard Leaving Certificate results. Several students enter it this month (September 2003) on the basis of FETAC awards, a national vocational certification scheme, a first for an Irish university,” the award citation said. The citation noted that a further 75 students from socially deprived backgrounds would also enter UCC this month, some to study medicine without meeting the standard point requirements. The students were chosen from 22 schools in disadvantaged parts of Cork and Kerry, who were tutored voluntarily by UCC staff, and marked an important success for the University's Access Programme, the Sunday Times said.

Welcoming the award, UCC's President, Professor Gerard T. Wrixon, said the University's five-year strategy, Agenda for Excellence, was aimed at “transforming University College Cork, already Ireland's leading research institution, into one of Europe's finest teaching and research universities.” “The Access Programme,” he added, “is designed specifically to open the possibility of third level education to students who might not otherwise consider it an option. Traditional entry qualifications are too often used to maintain universities as elitist institutions. We have to bend over backwards and work very hard with people who show an interest in education. It just takes an extra effort in first and second year.” The award also referred to UCC's Bridging the Gap Programme, a research activity which works with schools in disadvantaged areas of Cork.

The assessment highlighted the fact that UCC showed a 17% increase in student numbers to 14,000 over the past five years, and one of the lowest dropout rates (15%) in the State. It added that some 55% of students graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and that the modular degree structures “allow for more exotic combinations of subjects than that traditionally offered.”

UCC was also praised for its student infrastructure, including the €17 million state-of-the-art indoor sports complex, the Mardyke Arena, and the new Student Centre. Other infrastructure coming on stream as part of the University's massive building programme, the citation said, would include the €12 million Lewis Glucksman Gallery, and a very significant increase in accommodation for students over the next two years, which would provide affordable, on-campus quarters for all first year and foreign students who wished to avail of it. Professor Wrixon said, “UCC's aim is to show students at a defining moment in their lives, the excitement that a modern institution can bring and how interesting the world can be.”

Two outstanding research coups for UCC during the past year, the citation said, were the €11 million grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) which allowed the University to attract an entire photonics research team from Ipswich in England, and the award of in excess of  €20 million to establish the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, a key medical research facility based at UCC, of which €16.5 million was awarded by SFI, the largest research grant so far won by any Irish institution.

Professor Wrixon said UCC was very pleased at the recognition by the Sunday Times. “It represents an acknowledgment of the many progressive measures which have been put in place and of the tremendous commitment and contribution of all staff at the university. UCC's objective is and will continue to be to provide the outstanding educational experience in Ireland for Third Level students,” he concluded.


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