Archive for Theoretical Physics & Mathematics

Offers and Points

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , on September 8, 2021 by telescoper
Today’s Irish Times Supplement

Yesterday the Central Admissions Office released the first round offers for entry to Irish Universities; today the details appeared in the Irish newspapers. I don’t usually buy a newspaper on a weekday but I couldn’t resist getting a copy of the Irish Times so I could pore over the information presented in the CAO supplement, of which the picture above shows only a part, rather like I tend to do with the football results or cricket scores.

As expected, the points required for courses are significantly higher than last year. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the School Leaving Certificate involved a combination of school-based assessment and examinations that obviously worked to the benefit of the students. Looking through the results I struggled to find courses where the points requirement had fallen, but there are a few examples.

Students who have met the requirements for a course they applied to have until 13th September to decide whether to accept. There is then another round of offers starting on 20th September and closing on 22nd September. Here in Maynooth we start teaching new students on 27th September so the CAO process is very truncated this year. I’d imagine that most students will settle on their choices in the first round.

My biggest worry this year is now not to do with the business of offers and acceptances but the mad scramble for accommodation at the start of term. It’s going to be a stressful few weeks for everyone.

Anyway, let’s take a look a the offers for Maynooth. Most students in the Department of Theoretical Physics come either through our denominated programme MH206 Theoretical Physics & Mathematics (TP&M for short) or through MH201 Science (the so-called “Omnibus” Science programme):

The denominated programme in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics (MH206) is up 11 points on 521 from last year’s 510 but that’s not an exceptionally high figure in historical terms although it is one of the higher offers for Maynooth. Points for MH201 Science are also up this year to 401 from 360 last year. This is higher than I can remember any previous year I have been here.

We don’t normally publish information on how many offers have been made* so I’ll just say that on the basis of first-round offers it looks like we have done pretty well on TP&M. A good thing about this course is that it doesn’t involve laboratory work so is not constrained by capacity in the way that experimental subjects are. The total number of first-year students on MH201 for example is largely constrained by space in Chemistry labs: students are given a free choice of subjects in Year 1 so we have to allow for them all to choose any subject which leads to a bottleneck. Students on MH201 don’t choose their first-year subjects until they enrol so we won’t find out what numbers are like on this course for some time.

*I know, and could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

University Rankings Again

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2019 by telescoper

Last week saw the publication of the Times Higher World University Rankings which have once again predictably generated a great deal of sound and fury while signifying nothing very important. I can’t be bothered to repeat my previous criticisms of these league tables (though I will point you to a very good rant here) but I will make a couple of comments on the reaction to them here in Ireland.

First let me mention (for what it’s worth) that Maynooth University has risen from the band covering 351st-400th place to that covering 301st to 350th place. That means that Maynooth went up by anything from 1 place to 99 places. That’s two consecutive years of rises for NUIM.

(I’ll add without further comment that I arrived here two years ago…)

The Irish Media have not paid much attention to this (or to the improvement in standing of NUI Galway) but have instead been preoccupied with the fact that the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, known as Trinity College Dublin for short, has fallen by 44 places to 164th place; see, for example, here. Now there’s no question in my mind that Irish universities need an injection of income – especially in science subjects – in order to improve standards of education and research, but I don’t really understand the obsession with Trinity College. It’s a fine institution, of course, but sometimes it’s almost as if the press think that’s the only University in Ireland…

In response to its declining fortunes Trinity College has claimed that Ireland needs a `Rankings Strategy’. No it doesn’t. It needs something far more radical – a higher education strategy. The current government  doesn’t have one

Anyway, given the rate of Maynooth’s rise and Trinity’s fall it is a straightforward undoubtedly scientifically valid extrapolation to predict that in two or three years time, Maynooth will have overtaken Trinity in the World Rankings anyway!

(No, I’m not going to take any bets on that.)

Turning away from the exercise in numerological flummery that is the Times Higher League Tables, let me pass on some numbers that are actually meaningful. The week before term with not everyone yet registered, the number of students taking Mathematical Physics in the first year at Maynooth has increased by 31% since last year and the number on our fast-track Theoretical Physics and Mathematics (TP&M) programme has increased threefold. These increases are very pleasing. Although lectures proper don’t start until next week, I did an introductory session with the TP&M students this morning. It was very nice to be able to welcome them to Maynooth for what I hope will be an enjoyable time at Ireland’s soon-to-be top University!