University’s Access Centre celebrates 25 years

Rola Ulasola, Republic of Ireland and Galway United soccer star and University of Galway student, with Imelda Byrne, Head of the Access Centre, Dr Daniel Savery, Widening Participation Officer, and Dr Mary Surlis, Senior Academic Manager at University of Galway’s Access Centre.

Rola Ulasola, Republic of Ireland and Galway United soccer star and University of Galway student, with Imelda Byrne, Head of the Access Centre, Dr Daniel Savery, Widening Participation Officer, and Dr Mary Surlis, Senior Academic Manager at University of Galway’s Access Centre.

The Access Centre at University of Galway has marked 25 years of creating opportunities for people to find pathways into higher education.

Since its foundation in 1999, more than 3,500 people have been supported by the Access Centre, with the numbers of students from groups traditionally under-represented in university, continuing to grow.

The anniversary celebrations have been led by Mayor of Galway Councillor Eddie Hoare who unveiled a plaque at the Access Centre offices and was guest of honour at the Uni4U awards ceremony which provides experience of university for sixth class pupils in Deis and Link primary schools in Galway.

Mayor of Galway Councillor Eddie Hoare said that as an alumnus of University of Galway, it was his pleasure to join the University’s Access Centre to celebrate 25 years.

"In that time more than 3,500 students have enrolled in their programmes which helps to play such a key role in removing barriers to third level education for so many.

"The Uni4U Programme is another great initiative rolled out by the Access Centre that provides opportunities for DEIS primary school pupils to see first-hand what the University has to offer. I’d like to congratulate Imelda Byrne as Head of the Access Centre and all the team for the great work they continue and wish everyone involved continued success,"he said.

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said their values are what they strive for and to live by at University of Galway.

"In many respects the Access Centre is the embodiment of all those - openness; respect; excellence; sustainability. As we mark 25 years of creating opportunities and supporting the people in our community and hinterland, we should acknowledge the great work of those who dedicate more than just their time, knowledge and expertise to this endeavour - it is their passion and their motivation. And when we do that, we also celebrate all the 3,500 students who have travelled this path in the hope of making the most of these opportunities.”

Imelda Byrne, Head of the Access Centre, said that 2024 is a significant milestone for all at the Access Centre, University of Galway, as we celebrate 25 years of our Access Programmes.

"More than 3,500 students have participated on our programmes, which is 3,500 people whose lives have been significantly changed by the opportunities which we have been able to give them," she said.

“Our focus is on supporting and empowering people in the Galway city and county, the western region, the border counties, and the midlands, to give them a path into higher education and to address the barriers which they experience. Our ambition is to ensure everyone has equal access to higher education and that no-one feels like an outsider. We are proud of the huge impact we have had and we are committed to growing our achievements," concluded Ms Byrne.

Access programmes were established at the University in 1999, with the aim to provide a supportive, educational environment that prepares students academically and personally for a full-time undergraduate degree at third level.

Highlights of achievements and growth of Access:

On average, 629 students enrol on undergraduate programmes through the Access Centre each year.

In 2022, more than 150 students were supported in education at the University through the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR ), which focuses on students from socio-economically disadvantaged groups, and another 281 were supported through the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE ), which focuses on students with a disability.

Since 2015/16 to 2022/23, there has been a 132% 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.

Since 2018/19, on average almost 500 students from DEIS schools have enrolled in University of Galway each year.

Almost 100 students a year have enrolled at University of Galway from Further Education and Training since 2018/19.

Along with the plaque unveiling, alumni events and panel discussions to mark the 25th anniversary of Access programmes at University of Galway, a Widening Participation Report was published to highlight and evaluate the progress that has been made to create a more level playing field for students from underrepresented groups in society to find a path to higher education.

The University of Galway Access programmes involve a range of educational approaches and services to support students who are regarded by the Higher Education Authority as non-traditional and are perceived as disadvantaged or excluded from mainstream higher education.

It has a particular focus on meeting the educational needs of citizens and supporting regional development in a catchment area of low density and dispersed rural population and includes students from under-represented, disadvantaged and minority groups, mature students and students with disabilities.

Applications are now open for individuals to apply to a range of programmes, including programmes for school leavers and full/part-time courses for mature students. Students can opt to study on the University campus or in the Tuam area and An Cheathrú Rua area, depending on where they are located.


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