- 08 May 20
CFE Dundrum's principal Michael Foley tells us about the benefits of pursuing Further Education courses, and how his college is actively planning to provide a safe future for students amid the COVID-19 crisis.
With a strong focus on supporting and celebrating each student as an individual, Dundrum College of Further Education has helped people from all walks of life, including school leavers, upskilling adults and more, to discover, plan and achieve their goals.
Having built up a reputation for their exceptional standards of training and development, the college continues to adapt to the changing needs and concerns of their diverse students.
"We really have a mix of demographics," CFE Dundrum's principal Michael Foley tells us. "As well as catering for people coming straight from the Leaving Cert, we're also looking at people who are reskilling, and people who are changing careers. That includes people who are unemployed now – maybe due to COVID-19. We try to cater for all those people with a mix of skill-based courses and vocational courses, as well as progression-to-university programmes."
As Michael explains, the often overlooked benefits of pursuing Further Education programmes are staggering.
"SOLAS have done an analysis of our students who go on to university and institutes of technology – and they've found that they do significantly better than their cohorts in the middle CAO bracket who go straight in from their Leaving Cert," he says. "We now know from the statistics that there’s a 50% chance that those people going straight from school will drop out after the first year in university. But, if they come through a Further Education programme, where they’re immersed in research and assignment writing, they have a 70% chance of completing year one.
"That's like uranium enrichment!" he adds. "It absolutely makes sense to bring people through our Further Education programme before moving onto university or institutes of technology – or straight into employment."
CFE Dundrum's cutting edge approach to learning offers greater flexibility with HUB programmes – allowing students to adapt the curriculum to their personal preferences.
"We offer a mix of core and elective modules in business, computer science, gardening, nursing, psychology, childcare, art, humanities and more," Michael says. "All our qualifications are QQI-accredited – the same authority looking over the standards at university level. We offer a period where you can come in for the first month or so and explore your interests. So, for example – even if you thought you were interested in business in the accounting area, you might actually find that you love medical terminology."
"Having those kinds of opportunities is important," he continues. "As the year goes on, you can then progress into fixing your modules – so you can meet the qualification that you want. There are lots of different pathways for different people."
Located in the heart of Dundrum, Michael describes the college as having "a real buzz of an atmosphere".
"We have an active Student Society, as part of the wider Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education & Training Board," he notes. "That really gives us a taste of what student communities, societies and events are all about.
"We also have links with European partners through ERASMUS+ – which is a European Union programme to link up universities and Further Education centres across Europe. We have very strong ties with Norway, Estonia and Germany. We send about 10% of our students there every year to engage in two-week or month-long programmes."
Having worked at CFE Dundrum for many years before becoming the college's principal in 2018, Michael has no shortage of standout moments – though the journey of one student is a particular highlight.
"We had a student who grew up in Crumlin, in a family of 13 kids," he recalls. "Up into his 20s, he was working as a courier and a janitor. One day, while he was couriering, he was mugged, and he said, ‘I can’t do this anymore – I need something different’. So he came to us, and studied computer systems and networks.
"We have memorandums of understanding with a number of universities, and programmes that we link into through advanced progression – so he was able to jump straight into his second year at TU Dublin in Kevin Street. In his third year work placement he went into IBM, in their cyber security area. They were so impressed that they offered him a job when he had completed his four years in college. He is now one of the leading cyber security people in IBM. He travels the world, and he goes to all the conventions – and when he tells his story, he’ll always talk about how he started in Further Education."
As he looks to the future, even in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Michael remains positive.
"We’re actively planning for next year at the moment," he says. "It's a fast-moving story, but we're absolutely committed to the safety of all of our students and staff. We're looking at the public health advice, and we will most likely be commencing with a blended approach in 2020/21 – which will mean a mix of small, supported classroom sizes, with lots of social distancing, and online learning platforms. We’re a very technology-rich environment, and we've done a lot of virtual and blended learning over the years, so having to go completely online during this crisis wasn't too much of a shock for us."
For more information about Dundrum College Of Further Education, visit their website here.