The following information is intended as a general guide and you should check the specific information about delivery, assessment and expectations for any course you are considering in Ireland.

The culture of independent learning

Higher level education institutions in Ireland encourage a great deal of independent learning. Thus, you may find that you are given long reading lists to tackle, as well as many academic assignments. In addition, transcripts of lectures are not provided and it is the student’s responsibility to take notes at each lecture. This system may be quite different to the system you have experienced in your home country.

Although you are expected to do a lot of work by yourself, academic staff are usually very committed to the success of their students and are usually available to give help and advice.

Study, the library and reading lists

Using the library is essential for all academic courses and going to the library will become part of your daily academic life. Therefore, it is essential to understand the library system in your college. Library tours are usually provided by the college at the beginning of the college year. In addition, library staff are available throughout the year to answer any of your questions and to help you find the materials you need.

Reading lists can first appear to present an impossible task. But do not despair – you are not usually expected to read everything on your reading list. Several books may be suggested to cover one topic because the demand for information will often exceed the number of titles kept in a library. Students in Irish colleges are expected to work through titles on the list throughout the year, as a background to lectures and in preparation for assignments and examinations.

Lectures

Note-taking at lectures may prove difficult at first. The most important thing to remember when taking lecture notes is that you will be using them again in your study. Therefore, your notes should be very clear. You should not aim to take down everything, but enough to jog your memory when you return to the notes and not leave you guessing. You may need to understand them in nine months time before your exams!

Tutorials and discussion groups

Tutorials are small teaching groups organised by the lecturer that provide an opportunity for students to debate ideas and thoughts they have on topics raised in lectures and to ask the tutor any questions they may have about the course. Many students are concerned about language difficulties and problems understanding accents. Although it may be daunting, it is worthwhile to participate in discussions in lectures and tutorials. To alleviate any such problem, try to speak more slowly and clearly than you usually would, and likewise, if you have difficulty understanding other people in your class (or the lecturer) it is quite acceptable to approach the tutor or the lecturer, explain your problem and ask that they do the same for you. Usually all that is required is that they speak slower and more clearly for you (as you will do for them) and that they remind the class to do the same.

Theses

On some postgraduate courses, independent research leading to a thesis is required. You will be assigned an academic supervisor for your thesis and you can expect individual help with any problems relating to your thesis and some guidance from him or her. It is important to clearly understand the conditions and requirements for your thesis at an early stage in the academic year. Check with your academic supervisor about the timetable for the submission of a draft proposal of your thesis, which is normally early in the academic year.

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