Following the CASA-Dublin orientation program, participants immerse themselves in regularly-offered Trinity College courses beside local students. Trinity has an extensive undergraduate course catalogue, with a diversity of course options. As part of their course selection, students have the option to partake in the award-winning Idea Translation Lab (ITL) , and also have the option to select one graduate Masters-level course from a variety of disciplines, subject to approval.
Students carry a course load consisting of regularly scheduled lectures, seminars, tutorials, and laboratory classes depending upon the subject. “Classes” are often referred to as “modules” in Ireland. What constitutes a full course load varies among departments. Irish universities use the European Transfer and Accreditation System (ECTS). The standard semester academic load at Trinity College Dublin is 30 ECTS credits, with most courses counting for either 5 or 10 ECTS credits. CASA-Dublin students (as well as Trinity students) are required to earn 30 ECTS credits each semester.
Undergraduate-Level Trinity Courses
CASA-Trinity students select courses from Trinity’s extensive undergraduate course catalogue. Options include Classics, Communications, Drama, Economics, Education, English, European Studies, Film, French, Germanic Studies, Hispanic Studies, History, History of Art, Irish Studies, Italian, Law, Music, Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion and Theology, Russian and Slavonic Studies, Social Work and Social Policy, Sociology, Biochemistry and Immunology, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science and Statistics, Engineering (3 tracks), Environmental Sciences, Genetics, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics (including Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics), Plant Sciences, Zoology and Nursing and Midwifery.
The Award-Winning Idea Translation Lab (ITL)
As part of their curriculum, CASA-Trinity students may elect to take an optional course which explores the modern-day intersection of science and art, and develop solutions to real-life problems through the Ideas Translation Lab (ITL) , a customized, cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary undergraduate course stimulating the development of entrepreneurial, creative and critical thinking skills through collaborative group projects. Initiated at Trinity’s Science Gallery in collaboration with Harvard in 2011, the ITL course offers students opportunities to generate, develop, and realize breakthrough ideas for social, cultural, educational, and economic impact. The course aims to equip students with skills beyond their disciplinary boundaries and to develop creative project ideas, applying both design and entrepreneurial skills to produce projects with real world outcomes. These projects may have impact along different axes: social, scientific, cultural and commercial.
Working alongside Trinity College Dublin students, participants in the Ideas Translation Lab hone their ideas from inception to realization, and conduct a final presentation during the last week of the course. This class encourages students to critically reflect on the broader perspectives surrounding the cultural, ethical, and economic role of science in society, including science policy and the commercialization of new ideas.
A Unique Opportunity: Graduate Level Access
CASA-Trinity students also have the optional opportunity to enroll in one graduate Masters-level class, subject to approval. At present, there are a number of options available in a variety of disciplines, including:
School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures:
School of Religions and Theology:
School of Engineering:
School of Linguistics, Speech and Communications Science:
The Irish System
By and large, Irish students entering a university at age 18 or 19 know what subject they will major in and will have a level of knowledge and experience roughly equivalent to that of an American student at the end of the freshman year. They will take almost all their courses in their chosen departments and know which courses they will be taking. “Concentrations” are referred to as “Courses” at Trinity, as in “course of study.”
Irish students focus exclusively on a chosen area of study at the university level, and are therefore admitted by their schools or departments rather than centrally. At Trinity the process is quite competitive.
In Ireland, university-level study is much more self-directed, as students are given the autonomy to work and research independently. Participants will therefore need to be self-motivated and prepared to study independently in order to succeed in university-level courses in Ireland.
American students, unfamiliar with the Irish system, will find that course organization and the methods of teaching can vary from department to department. Because Irish students, given cultural values on understatement and modesty, will often give an appearance of doing less work than they actually are, the visiting student must be careful not to be lulled into a feeling of complacency. Remember that a fellow Irish student is trained to work independently and, by knowing how the system works, is able to develop a rhythm suited to the requirements of the specialized degree program carried out over the course of three or four years. They will seem to work harder at peak periods prior to the all-important examinations because these are the only assessments that really count for Trinity students. Otherwise, the written work prepared for discussion in tutorials and based on extensive reading generally carries little weight in terms of final grading for the Irish student.
What level of courses to take?
Junior and senior freshman classes at Trinity are roughly equivalent to American freshman and sophomore-level classes, respectively. Junior and senior sophister classes are roughly equivalent to junior and senior-level classes. It is recommended visiting students explore freshman courses, and, if you have a extensive background in the subject, sophister classes. Lower-level courses are usually advisable in non-concentration fields. In fact, it would be unusual to be admitted to an upper-level course without at least two, and preferably three, previous courses in the subject. However, every department has different rules and courses they allow visiting students to take, so students must be sure to check with the individual department.
Courses are arranged by individual teaching departments to suit their own needs, standards and objectives. Courses consist of lectures, smaller group seminars and discussion classes, laboratory and practical classes, and tutorials or supervisions. End-of-year or end-of-term course examinations are becoming an increasingly common feature of monitoring progress and may count for 70 percent or more of the final grade for visiting students. Other than for these examinations, one should not expect to find any form of periodic assessment such as mid-terms and quizzes. Even more, students should not expect detailed reading assignments and highly structured lectures of the kind that predetermine the scope and depth of the knowledge required. Frequently, the number of contact hours is small in relation to the amount of outside reading it is presumed a student is doing in order to gain the breadth and depth of knowledge expected for high performance. Students must remember that the Irish system generally will not “spoon-feed” students with simply the amount of information they need to know in order to pass the examinations.
In the non-science disciplines, lectures and tutorials form the basic instructional program. Lectures are not intended to cover all the material students need to know in order to pass. Rather, lectures are usually topical in nature and serve to highlight specifically selected areas of relevant course material. This can present problems to the American student because, other than being presented in some degree of chronological order, these lectures often appear unrelated one to the other.
In science and engineering courses (and in some pre-professional disciplines such as architecture), lectures will tend to be more comprehensive, as one would expect in an American university, and will be supported by a heavy load of laboratory and practical classes or problem-solving tutorials.
Seminars and Tutorials
Formal lectures generally do not give students an opportunity to question or debate a point; this is reserved for individual follow-up in seminars or discussion classes and in tutorials. It is important to attend all the mandatory tutorials. A seminar is somewhere between a lecture and a tutorial in that it consists of a teacher and from ten to fifteen students but it focuses on the discussion of a pre-assigned topic or of a seminar paper prepared by one of the students. Students are expected to come to class with reading done and, possibly, a short discussion paper.
Assessment of an Irish student’s academic performance is different from the system to which students are accustomed in the US. Less weight, if any, is given to work done in class during the course of the semester. The only assessment that counts is the final examination or paper at the end of the semester or year of the degree course. Essay marks and grades on mid-course examinations that might be required at the end of the first or other years are useful primarily to reveal the student’s self-discipline and analytical powers in working their way independently through the suggested readings. This means that students will be expected to show the same self-discipline and self-motivation in pursuing their own course of reading and study. With that said, Trinity professors are extremely accommodating and have praised international students for their enthusiasm and participation in class.
Note that many visiting students are assessed using papers rather than tests. This is especially true for visiting students abroad in the Fall because Trinity students take all their examinations and turn in all papers in May. Visiting students often turn in papers instead of examinations in December, rather than in May.
The method of grading at Trinity differs greatly from the American system. For visiting students, a final paper will count for the majority of their grade (at least 60-70%, and sometimes more).
Traditionally, Trinity does not award a lot of A’s, which are awarded only for truly outstanding performance and are achieved by only about 5-7% of a large class. To score above 70% on an examination or paper is very difficult, if not mythical. To score in the 50-40% range would be a sign that a presumably able student is simply not studying seriously. See the Trinity website for more information on grading. Shooting for above 60% is a solid goal.