Comment & Analysis
Oct 7, 2016

Trinity’s Admin Failings Hinder an Otherwise Incredible Erasmus Experience

Stephen McLoughlin discusses the difficulties he faced with Trinity administration both before he went on Erasmus and on his return.

Stephen McLoughlin Contributing Writer
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Anna Moran for The University Times

When I first heard of Erasmus aged 16, my priority became to benefit from a European exchange. I saw it as an incredible opportunity, one that would open many doors and provide me with unique experiences. However, my difficulties began with the very makeup of my course, political science and geography, which is comprised of two cross-faculty disciplines and severely lacks administrative coordination. But, as I would come to realise, the difficulties did not end there.

In the winter of my second year, I began the application procedure for Erasmus. My initial hurdle was knowing which department to apply through. I actually applied through both, subsequently receiving advice from my predecessors to only apply through the Department of Geography. To this day, I have yet to receive approval or disapproval from the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy regarding my political science Erasmus application. For some reason, I was instructed – as a political science student – to apply through the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy for my exchange. Ultimately, my application was received by the Department of Geography and deemed appropriate for an Erasmus exchange to Utrecht University in the Netherlands, an option not offered by political science. And with that, I had my first real taste of Trinity’s red tape and bureaucracy. More would follow.

Though my application to Trinity had been needlessly complicated, incoming geoscience students were greeted with open arms by the Erasmus staff in Utrecht

As part of my arrangement, I was responsible for satisfying both departments by equally dividing my credits between the subjects in the equivalent departments in Utrecht. Though my application to Trinity had been needlessly complicated, incoming geoscience students were greeted with open arms by the Erasmus staff in Utrecht. It’s very easy to become bogged down by the sheer amount of paperwork attached to Erasmus, but the Utrecht Erasmus coordinator was at hand at all times for assistance with any queries or issues we were having, even down to helping with incremental changes to our class timetables.

My Erasmus year was challenging yet still extremely rewarding. But I was slightly apprehensive about my return to Trinity for final year. Last April, I submitted my fourth-year course choices based on a preliminary subject list, not guaranteeing me a place in my chosen subjects or even the assurance that I wouldn’t face timetable clashes during the academic year. The Trinity course application procedure was a world away from that of Utrecht University, where in April I had been able to choose all eight of my courses for the year based on their assigned timeslots and my preferences.

After a 10 month exchange, I returned to Dublin with my completed documentation and necessary credentials. I gave the documents to the Academic Registry in July, inquired about the conversion of my grades and integration into fourth year, and was told that my queries would be passed on to the Erasmus office. But, after two months of emailing and phone calls, my questions still remained unanswered.

I’ve since learned the reason for this. Returning exchange students’ grades are brought to the university’s court of examiners at the same time as the results from supplemental exams. When I returned to the Academic Registry the week before Freshers’ Week, still armed with the same questions, I also had the new concern that I hadn’t yet been “invited” to register for final year, a problem that many Erasmus students face on returning to Trinity. Registration is often delayed due to the need for approval from the court of examiners. But considering that the last exchange students mostly return by the beginning of July, is this really the best time to authorise our grades?

The university’s staff should be giving greater consideration to final-year students, who are facing the most difficult year of their course and will require adequate time to adjust and prepare

The university’s staff should be giving greater consideration to final-year students, who are facing the most difficult year of their course and will require adequate time to adjust and prepare. It’s not fair to open registration for final-year students in the first week of Michaelmas term. Many returning from Erasmus were left without timetables in their first week and had not yet registered because they hadn’t been given the chance.

On multiple occasions, I’ve heard the phrase “oh well, this happens every year”. It’s passed around by administration staff, fellow students and students who went on Erasmus before. But it’s simply not good enough. A fellow student has not even returned to Trinity for final year following Erasmus, due to the improper and unprofessional treatment that she received from this university’s administration, particularly during the application process. Stories like these abound. But if these mistakes were made in previous years, then why can’t they be resolved for future years?

Like so many other students, I would like to see a major overhaul of the administration in College. The only negative aspect of my exchange year was the lack of clarification and guidance given by Trinity from the day I applied for Erasmus up until now. As I struggle with reintegration to college for my final year, Trinity’s administrative failings don’t make a difficult time any easier. Something has to change.

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