University secures €814,000 to improve access and learning for people with intellectual disability

Feb 09 2024 Posted: 12:15 GMT

University of Galway has secured €814,000 under a special funding programme to improve access to higher education and learning for people with intellectual disability.

The award was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris T.D. at an event with the Higher Education Authority in Dublin.

The funding will enable the University to put in place a new programme for students with intellectual disability called Cumas - a Foundational Certificate in Learning and Community. The aim of the programme is to provide students with a third level learning experience which will develop their knowledge, social engagement and employment prospects.

Speaking about the funding, Minister Harris said: “Today, we are making a change. Today we are opening doors and opportunities so that these learners can take their place among our college communities. These courses have been designed with the learner at heart. When given the opportunity, students with an intellectual disability can thrive. Access to higher education can lead to employment. It can transform the lives of students and their families as well as society as a whole.”

Imelda Byrne, Head of the Access Centre at University of Galway, said: “This is a very inspiring time for University of Galway. We in the Access Centre are really thrilled to be allocated funding from the Higher Education Authority to pilot Cumas. This funding will enable the University to develop a high-quality, well-resourced programme for people with intellectual disabilities, people that have been traditionally excluded from Higher Education. Our University is signalling a commitment to the principle that Higher Education is and should be accessible to all.”

The funding is being provided over three years under phase 2 of PATH 4 of the National Access Plan, which highlights the need to improve and increase representation in higher education for students with a disability, including students with autism and those with an intellectual disability.

It builds on support from the HEA for the University’s multi-sensory room, which was opened last September, as part of efforts to make the Galway city campus more inclusive and sensory friendly. The project was supported by the HEA’s Fund for Students with Disabilities and HEA PATH 4 Phase 1.

University of Galway students on Cumas will take part in social activities and academic classes with students without intellectual disabilities, as well as participating in classes with other students with intellectual disabilities. The programme will provide students with work experience through placement opportunities. 

While the primary aims of the programme caters to the students and their needs, it is also envisioned that the University of Galway community and the wider community will benefit by developing a greater understanding and appreciation of the potential of people with intellectual disabilities.


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