University of Galway awarded special €1.3m fund for consent research and education

From left, Caroline Loughnane, Secretary for Governance and Academic Affairs at University of Galway; Dr Pádraig Mac Neela, Head of Psychology at University of Galway and co-director Active Consent; and Helen Maher, University of Galway Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
Sep 25 2023 Posted: 14:35 IST

Higher Education Authority announces Performance Funding in recognition of work of Active Consent


University of Galway has been awarded a special €1.3million fund in respect of efforts to develop research, education and awareness around consent.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris T.D. announced the Performance Funding at an event at SETU Carlow as part of dedicated investment by the Higher Education Authority which recognise innovative programmes to help create a better society.

University of Galway is one of only 5 institutions to be awarded funding under the HEA initiative.

The €1.3million fund was secured following the submission of a case study which outlines the pioneering and innovative work of the Active* Consent programme, from its inception in 2013 as a consent education and research initiative, through to it being scaled up from 2019-2022, and its place as a national programme promoting healthy relationships and fostering a culture of respect. 

The programme has worked with nearly all Irish higher education institutions, addressing student needs on consent, sexual violence and harassment and upskilling the staff who support them. 

University of Galway has been successful in securing HEA performance funding in all four rounds of allocation, totalling almost €4 million.

Projects supported highlight areas of strength and development such as gender equality; research excellence - on the back of a very strong performance in the Horizon 2020 programme for European research; and Access - enabling university opportunities for students from non-traditional backgrounds including students with disabilities, Irish Travellers and students from further education.

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “The award of €1.3m in Government funding to help progress the consent agenda is both a recognition of the success of the work done to date in research, education and awareness, as well as being a signal of what more can be achieved. The work has always been firmly embedded in one of our University’s core values – respect. I would like to pay tribute to the work of all those involved in Active* Consent and those who support its endeavours every day.” 

Caroline Loughnane, Secretary for Governance and Academic Affairs at University of Galway, said: “Huge credit goes to all those who have been involved in the pioneering work of Active* Consent. We are delighted to see the recognition for the academic work, as well as the impact that the team and their initiatives are having in wider society. This allocation of performance funding for the fourth successive year further demonstrates the impactful, progressive nature of initiatives at University of Galway.”

Dr Pádraig Mac Neela, Head of Psychology at University of Galway and co-director Active Consent, said: "The Active* Consent programme works with young people and staff in universities, further education, post-primary schools, and we have established evidence-based resources, training and education that open up conversations about consent and help young people build the skills that they need. We prepare staff to support positive developmental transitions and to manage disclosures of assault or harassment. The HEA Performance Funding award will enable us to continue our ten-year story of research, training and education to meet our ambition of having integrated Consent education from post-primary schools into Further and Higher Education.” 

As highlighted in the submission to the HEA, Active* Consent has had a wide-ranging impact in higher education, on national policy, and as part of the national discourse on consent.

  • 22,000 first year students participated in workshops (2022-23) 
  • 90% recommend workshop participation and 91% learned something useful
  • 2,800 students attended live consent drama (2022-23); with 75% agreeing their understanding of consent improved 
  • 1,500 HE staff and students trained as consent workshop facilitators since 2016
  • 170 staff completed 12-hour First Point of Contact disclosure skills training since 2021

Earlier this year, Active* Consent marked the launch of its 2023-27 programme with the publication of a report reviewing the scale of work undertaken during its first large scale programme, 2019-2022, and an outline of goals to expand the work over the next five years.

Active* Consent is now acknowledged as the sectoral standard and leading national programme for consent, with a wide range of stakeholder partnerships including Union of Students Ireland, Galway RCC and Rape Crisis Network Ireland, and SOLAS/Education & Training Boards Ireland. In 2021 the HEA adopted the Active* Consent campus climate survey tool to assess student and staff experiences.



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