University for All 

What is University for All in UCD?

University for All is a whole-institutional approach to inclusion in UCD. This initiative brings together the entire university community to work together to achieve our goal of becoming a fully inclusive, diverse institution. The UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future states that through the “mainstreaming approach – (University for All) we recognise, promote and value diversity, foster the spirit of inclusion, appreciate the breadth of talent, experience and contribution of all students, and strive to remove the barriers to access, participation and success.”

The University for All initiative is sponsored by the Registrar & Deputy President, Professor Mark Rogers, governed by University Widening Participation Committee, chaired by Professor Grace Mulcahy, and led by UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. Starting with our strategy, policies and governance, we are weaving this mission in to the very fabric of the institution.

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University for All's Objectives

In line with our UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future we are implementing University for All in order meet:

Core Objective 2

Provide an inclusive educational experience that defines international best practice and prepares our graduates to thrive in present and future societies.

Core Objective 4

Attract, retain and develop an excellent and diverse cohort of students, faculty and staff.

University for All provides a framework for all of our colleagues in UCD to achieve these core objectives. While building on the good practice in UCD we wish to celebrate and showcase the numerous successes already achieved across the university. Most importantly, we are working to support projects which aim to increase inclusion in our policies, strategies and across the four pillars of the higher education experience of students: teaching & learning, student supports, the built environment and the technological infrastructure.

University for All Guiding Principles

  1. Mainstreaming Inclusion is the job of the entire University community and is the responsibility of all.
  2. Everyone has the right to equal participation and engagement in Higher Education.
  3. Our student body entering, participating in and completing higher education must reflect the diversity of the global population.
  4. Widening Participation means ensuring all students can access Higher Education and that they have an equal opportunity to progress and succeed within and beyond University.
  5. To achieve University for All we must engage with everyone—students, faculty, practitioners, community partners, educators, researchers and policymakers.
  6. Our University believes that excellence is achieved through diversity.

Toolkit for Inclusive Higher Education Institutions: From Vision to Practice

UCD Access & Lifelong Learning have created the Toolkit for Inclusive Higher Education Institutions which provides a framework which can:

  • ASSIST in creating an action plan
  • RECOGNISE the work already achieved
  • IDENTIFY areas of priority
  • OFFER practical steps to implement and embed inclusive practice
  • FACILITATE dialogue between faculty, professional staff, technical staff on the importance of inclusive practice

Steps to implementation

  • College and Unit senior leaders hold responsibility for the implementation of the University for All initiative with support from UCD ALL Project Lead - University for All. 
  • University Widening Participation Committee representatives fulfil co-ordinating and championing responsibility within their College/Unit
  • Other key roles for implementation: College VP for Teaching & Learning, College VP for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (and others as indentified in Colleges and Units)
  • Use University for All Toolkit workshops to undertake the self-assessment and action planning processes
  • These workshops include:
    • Introduction to Widening Participation student data
    • Access Leader Student Panel
    • Universal Design for Inclusive Practice Workshop
    • Toolkit self-assessment group exercise
    • Gathering examples of good practice
    • Identification of areas that need to be addressed
    • Development of Action Plan

Widening Participation Representative, in collaboration with Access & Lifelong Learning, will review proposed Action Plan, ensuring that it aligns with the priorities identified, College goals, and resources. It will then be considered for approval by the College Principal or Unit Director.

University for All Progress and Current Projects

Foundations and Scaffolding

  • Inclusion and Diversity form two of the four core objectives set out in our UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future.
  • Access and Widening Participation now from part of the Terms of Reference of every programme board in UCD making programmes directly accountable for their progress on inclusion.
  • We now have a wider range of admission pathways to studying in UCD than ever before: Mature Years Access, Open Learning, Lifelong Learning, HEAR, DARE, Mature Entry, QQI-FET, CAO, International direct entry and Future You.
  • UCD currently has a designated quote of almost 25% of undergraduate places for students coming from target groups through a variety of admission pathways. In 2019-20 an agreement was rolled out that the quota could be shared between target groups allowing for increased use of designated places e.g. where the quota for mature students could not be met designated places could be reallocated for students coming in through a QQI-FET pathway or another route such as HEAR or DARE.
  • The UCD Prospectus now includes information on all of our pathways.
  • Enrolment planning includes all of our equity groups ensuring that equity groups are not marginalised as the responsibility of one area of the university.
  • UCD’s Cothrom na Féinne scholarships are mainstreamed and embedded in our main Entrance Scholarship Awards. This scholarship programme is the biggest of its kind in Ireland and currently supports over 350 students in UCD.
  • Open Learning which opens up over 300 of UCD’s undergraduate modules for anyone to study for credit and audit is now offered in 35 UCD Schools. Open Learning allows students to study at their own pace, within their chosen discipline, and offers a mechanism of entry to a number of full-time undergraduate degrees in UCD.
  • We have now mainstreamed UCD’s University Access programmes: Access to Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law (AHSSL) and Access to Science, Engineering, Agricultural Science and Medicine (SEAM). These programmes are now embedded in their respective UCD Colleges.
  • We have now established a robust data tracking mechanism in collaboration with colleagues in UCD Admissions and the Director, Institutional Data.
  • We can now provide disaggregated participation data for all programmes and target groups.

Pillar 1 – Programme & Curriculum Design, Teaching & Learning

  • UCD Access & Lifelong Learning in collaboration with UCD Teaching & Learning have worked with colleagues around UCD (and IADT) to gather examples of good practice in relation to inclusive curriculum design and inclusive assessment and feedback. These case studies offer examples of excellent work being carried out in the university and offer an opportunity to other academic staff to learn how they might embed the principles of universal design and inclusive practice in their own work.
  • Currently we are collaborating with the UCD College of Engineering and Architecture on an Inclusive Teaching Pilot where 13 module coordinators have nominated their modules to be adapted based on the principles of inclusive teaching and learning. We have gathered initial data from students measuring their experience of the current iteration of the module, module coordinators will then be provided with training and resources on inclusive teaching and learning and will make adjustments to their modules. We will then gather feedback from students again using the same measures to establish the impact of those changes. Ultimately the outcome of the project will include discipline-specific guidance on embedding inclusive practice, a seminar to disseminate the results and a publication of case studies.
  • Digital Badge in Universal Design for Teaching and Learning (Higher Education). In collaboration with AHEAD and through the framework of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education we have developed a recognised professional development digital badge which allows all those involved in the teaching of students to learn about Universal Design for Learning and how it may be applied in their own contexts. This programme is made available to UCD staff/faculty annually. The digital badge programme is also embedded in the UCD Teaching & Learning Professional Development Certificate and Diploma through the curriculum design module delivered by Dr Terry Barrett.

Pillar 2 – Student Supports and Services

  • Student supports in UCD operate in a fully mainstreamed “student is a student” approach. For example, each programme in UCD has a dedicated programme student adviser. This student adviser supports all students within their programme and does not refer students from target groups to specialist supports to receive programme-related support.
  • The Academic Skills programme developed by UCD Access & Lifelong Learning is offered to all students on campus, not just those from the target groups. This includes support with note taking, exam preparation, stress management etc. The workshop materials are also available online to all students. We are currently developing these workshops in to online modules which will be available for anyone in UCD to embed in their VLE modules.
  • UCD Access & Lifelong Learning offer training in Universal Design of Communications and this session has been rolled out in a number of programme areas including the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems and the College of Social Sciences and Law. Our workshop on Universal Design of Communications covers accessibility of digital, verbal and printed communications, offering practical advice for those creating material and guidance on procurement requirements for those working with external designers.

Pillar 3 – Physical Campus and the Built Environment

  • A designated budget is provided each year for accessibility works on campus. This work is carried out by UCD Estates in collaboration with UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. The work is directed by an accessibility audit of key buildings and ongoing work by Tina Lowe, Campus Accessibility Officer.
  • UCD Estate Services in collaboration with UCD Access & Lifelong Learning have been rolling out accessible signage in a number of key buildings on campus. This signage provides a consistent approach to internal wayfinding for users of the campus.
  • A series of accessible route videos were produced in a collaborative initiative between students and Access & Lifelong Learning – funded by the UCD SPARC initiative. These videos can be used by any visitors to the campus and are available to be promoted by those hosting events in UCD. The videos showcase the accessibility of the campus demonstrating a number of the key routes.
  • All wheelchair accessible rooms in UCD residences are now reserved for students with disabilities – both incoming and continuing students.

Pillar 4 – Information Technology Systems and Infrastructure

  • UCD Registry recently reviewed all of their registration screens for students. As part of this review colleagues in registry consulted with Access & Lifelong Learning and worked to ensure accessibility was core to all changes made. For example, additional instruction videos were created to guide students through the process and address frequently asked questions.
  • The procurement of our current Virtual Learning Environment, Brightspace, included accessibility as a core requirement. The VLE team also consulted with Access & Lifelong Learning when testing possible VLEs before purchase. Brightspace was determined to be the most accessible platform which met the necessary requirements. Access & Lifelong Learning were also invited by the VLE team to deliver a number of workshops on embedding Universal Design for Learning and accessibility for those using the system.
  • Terminal 4, UCD’s website content management system, allows for full accessibility of content. Information on ensuring accessibility of content is included in the training delivered by UCD IT Services for content creators.
  • Module Coordinators have access on their Infohub online classlists to the support requirements of students with disabilities taking their modules. This allows for streamlined communication which ensures secure transfer of this sensitive, personal data. Enhancements to this have included a link to information on what each support means in detail and the addition of a targeted communications email button to this list so module coordinators can easily reach out to students with disabilities in their classes.

University for All's Project Lead

Dr Lisa Padden has been working on the University for All initiative since its inception and has now taken up the role of Project Lead in order to further develop and scale up the model.


  • 01 716 7072

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