New Access Centre office opens at University of Galway

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galway daily news anne rabbitte at university of galway opening new access centre
Minister of State Anne Rabbitte T.D. officially opens the Access Centre at University of Galway, alongside University President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Head of the Access Centre Imelda Byrne and Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar at University of Galway. Credit - Aengus McMahon.

Research by University of Galway shows the overall number of students from traditionally underrepresented groups are continuing to grow at the University.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte launched the University’s first annual report on Widening Participation this week and officially opened the Access Centre’s new office.

The report outlines key achievements to increase the equality of opportunity for students who traditionally would be regarded as underrepresented in higher education.

This includes the number of students entering University of Galway through specific entry routes other than the Leaving Certificate and CAO system.

Since 2015/16 to 2020/21, there has been a more than 100% increase in students registering for the Disability Support Service at the University.

The service is available to University of Galway students who need support or reasonable accommodations due to the impact of a disability, ongoing physical or mental health condition, or a specific learning difficulty.

The establishment of the Further Education to Higher Education Working Group at the University brought together key stakeholders from across the University and local Further Education providers to expand the number and breadth of undergraduate opportunities available for students coming through from Further Education and Training.

This opening up of opportunities at University of Galway has produced significant results with a 211% increase in the number of students entering University of Galway from Further Education and Training over a four-year period.

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) are two national schemes developed by HEI’s to increase the number of students entering HE who have a disability (DARE) or who come from socio-economically disadvantaged groups (HEAR) in society.

Over 10 years since the 2010/11 academic year, more than 4,100 students were welcomed to the University under the two Government initiatives.

Almost one in 10 of the University’s student population have a socio-economic profile of disadvantage and 32% of students have a socio-economic profile of marginally below average.

Anne Rabbitte, who is Minister of State for Disabilities, said that staff in the Access Centre have worked to offer the best student experience, to advocate for and to impart their knowledge to students, many of whom face significant obstacles on their educational journey.

“With the opening of the Access Centre at University of Galway and the publication of the annual Widening Participation report I am confident that the University is committed to building on what has been achieved to date and to finding ways to help others to enhance their educational future, and to remain committed to diversity and equality of opportunity, to combating educational disadvantage in the region and beyond, and to ensuring university education is for everyone.”

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of University of Galway, said: “A key component of this report is looking at the data we have on underrepresented students and learning from what has been achieved so far, so that we can continue to develop a university community that is more reflective of society and that leads the way in changing our society. This is a challenge and responsibility for us all.

“The widening participation activities outlined in this report are a testament to our commitment to our values of openness, respect, excellence and sustainability, and in this report, we see the outcomes of this commitment for the public good.”

Imelda Byrne, Head of Access Centre at University of Galway, said: “This report outlines the broad range of work that has been done to increase the diversity of the University population and the efforts being made to ensure a whole-of-institution approach to widening participation.

“We are proud of the progress we have made so far but recognise that more still can be done to further extend opportunities to under-represented groups.”

Dr Daniel Savery, Widening Participation Officer at the University’s Access Centre, said: “This report provides clear evidence that we have made significant progress in widening participation and creating a more inclusive environment for students from traditionally underrepresented groups in University of Galway.

“It is through collaboration that this has been achieved to date, and we look forward to building on these achievements.”

A copy of the report is available at https://www.universityofgalway.ie/media/access/Widening-Participation-Report-2022.pdf