NUI Galway Power in Participation honoured for outstanding Community Education

Graduation day for the class of 2019. Please credit Lane Studios
Mar 05 2021 Posted: 11:06 GMT

AONTAS Star Award recognises University collaboration with Galway Traveller Movement and Community Action Network

 A Community Education programme at NUI Galway has won a national AONTAS STAR award after supporting adult learning for more than 20 years. 

Power in Participation, a collaborative project involving the University and Galway Traveller Movement and Community Action Network has been recognised for its work with Travellers. 

The project saw 24 members of the Traveller community graduate with a Diploma in Community Development Practice.

Lecturers Dr Deirdre Hardiman and Dr Helen Casey have worked in Community Education in NUI Galway for more than two decades, advocating for the continued provision of educational and learning opportunities, both on campus and on an outreach basis, in order to widen participation in higher education.

Dr Hardiman said: “The project was designed and implemented with students at its centre and this community education approach is essential to ensure social inclusion and empowerment.”

Dr Casey said: “This model of Community Education can be rolled out nationwide and there have been discussions with a Traveller group in the Midlands about a similar project. It is about putting people at the heart of change.

“The knowledge and lived experience of the diverse student group also added to the learning of the diploma course and showcased the skill within to take up community work in the future.”

Power in Participation was honured at a special online event for the AONTAS STAR Awards. They won in the Third Level Access and Engagement category, sponsored by Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI). 

A key focus of the project is promoting access to educational opportunities and widening participation in higher education for under-represented groups.

Martin Ward, of the Galway Traveller Movement, said: “Everyone involved in the project committed to ensuring that no-one was left behind for a second time on their educational journey. This meant supports were tailored to an individual’s needs and mostly delivered through a buddy-buddy system. It is a huge boost to see our project recognised by Aontas.”

Pat Tobin, of Community Action Network, said: “Leadership is essential for social change and this tailor made course was one of the best examples of collaboration in action.”

The project examined the impact of the outreach NUI Diploma in Community Development Practice on the personal and professional lives of programme graduates. 

Nora Mongan, programme graduate, said: “There is a need for more of these projects that deliver results for communities who were left behind in education. It’s not good enough just to say we are inclusive and sit back. There needs to be a lot of outreach work done to ensure engagement happens especially for those who had a bad experience in the education sector in the past.”

Colie Sweeney, also a programme graduate, said: “As students we are extremely proud to have won the Aontas Star award for this project as we had meaningful input into the design and delivery.”


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