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University for All is a whole-institutional approach to inclusion in UCD, bringing together the entire university community to achieve our goal of becoming a fully inclusive, diverse institution. University for All recognises, promotes, and values the breadth of talent, experience and contribution of all students, and creates an inclusive educational experience for all. In line with the UCD and EDI strategies and the Education and Student Success Strategy (UCD, 2021), the University for All initiative embeds inclusion across the university, further developing UCD’s capacity to attract, retain and develop our diverse student population.

University for all mainstreams access and inclusion ensuring that all students in UCD feel welcome, belong and are valued. University for All grounded in the (opens in a new window)UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future, and the EDI Strategy and Action Plan 2018 - 2020 - 2025, and the Education and Student Success Strategy (UCD, 2021). University for All’s goal of mainstreaming inclusion is also grounded in Ireland’s National Access Policy which clearly notes the need to move responsibility for access and inclusion out of just being the sole responsibility of access offices. Lastly, University for All ensures that UCD is in compliance with the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018, the Disability Act 2005, the Public Sector Duty under the Human Rights & Equality Act 2004 and Part M Building Regulations (2010).

We have designed an infographic to explain the University for All structure.

University for All is sponsored by the Registrar & Deputy President, Professor Mark Rogers, and has a dotted line to Professor Colin Scott, VP, EDI. University for All implementation is overseen by the University Widening Participation Committee, chaired by Professor Grace Mulcahy, and led by UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. It is grounded in the (opens in a new window)UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future, and the EDI Strategy and Action Plan 2018 - 2020 - 2025

UCD in the Community was established in 2016, to support and promote civic engagement across the UCD community. The objective of UCD in the Community is to connect UCD staff and students with the wider community for mutual benefit, bringing their skills and expertise to support community-based organisations (CBOs), and in exchange, empowering the UCD community as socially aware citizens. Simultaneously, the aim is to showcase current projects, teaching and research that work in a collaborative manner and contribute to positive and sustainable social outcomes.

University for All is a UCD specific whole-institutional approach to mainstreaming inclusion to ensure all students feel valued, welcomed and can succeed. 

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size or disability. (Disability Act, 2005). The University for All initiative seeks to engage the entire university community to apply Universal Design to the whole institution and each individual’s day-to-day work - policy, strategy, teaching, learning, assessment, student supports and services, the built campus and the IT infrastructure. 

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides an effective framework to improve the learning experience of all students within the higher education teaching environment. It is a set of principles for curriculum development that gives all students equal opportunities to learn. UDL is a central component of UCD’s University for All initiative, which ensures that all students have equitable opportunities to access, participate and succeed in learning. The principles of Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 2018) provide for all students:

  • Multiple means of engagement
  • Multiple means of representation
  • Multiple means of action & expression

UCD’s Education and Student Success Strategy (2021) espouses access, inclusion, diversity, Universal Design and accessibility. University for All most closely aligns with two themes: 

Theme 2 – Student engagement, diversity, and wellbeing

  • Aim: We aim to recognise, promote, and value diversity; foster the spirit of inclusion; appreciate the breadth of talent, experience, and contribution of all; and strive to remove barriers to access, participation, and success.
  • Area of Action 4: We will continue to develop robust, data driven and appropriate approaches to facilitate wider access, retention and progression of all our student cohorts.

Theme 3 – Education that connects, inspires, and transforms

  • Aim: We aim to support our faculty and staff who support them to develop teaching, learning and assessment approaches that are research-informed, inclusive, intercultural in the broadest sense and that will promote student success.
  • Area of Action 3: We will equip all our educators with the tools and resources required to embed Universal Design for Learning on an institution-wide basis.

The Toolkit for Inclusive Higher Education Institutions has been developed as a framework to support the implementation process. Academic/Administrative leaders have overarching responsibility for the delivery of the initiative in their own College or Unit in UCD. The initiative is coordinated locally by our Widening Participation Representatives along with other key individuals including the VP for Teaching & Learning, VP for EDI and others as identified locally.

Along with the initiative we are developing a bespoke research framework in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of HE in UCD. This framework will measure the impact of the initiative overall while also allowing for individual impact measurement for projects which are developed in Colleges or Units.

Our ultimate goal is that all aspects of UCD are fully accessible. However, this is a long-term change programme and will take a number of years to achieve. ALLY and Sensus Access have been developed to support faculty and staff in making their teaching materials accessible and we would encourage you to familiarise yourself with these tools. Additional training and support is available - contact (opens in a new window)all@ucd.ie

While there are reasonable accommodations available to students with a diagnosis of a disability, there are many more students in UCD who face barriers in their educational experience. Disclosure should be a personal choice for people with disabilities and not a requirement in order to equitably engage in higher education. UCD is committed to providing a universally designed education to all students - we should expect diversity in our student population and not make any assumptions about their previous educational experience. We should remove the barriers which can be created through an attempt to design for an ‘average’ student or an assumption that all students come to UCD with the same skills, abilities and resources.

Universal Design is simpler, more beneficial and less work than people realise. We have a number of resources and training opportunities which you and your team can avail of to guide inclusion in your day to day work in UCD, whether you have a teaching, support, technical, policy or any other role. The rollout of UDL in UCD is being supported by the Faculty Partnership Programme which is developing additional resources and supports.

Diversity in fact enriches the experience of all students in the university and does not impact on academic standards. Professor Mark Rogers, UCD Registrar and Deputy President, notes that diversity is required in order for us to reach our goal of excellence. Universal Design ensures equitable access and a flexible approach and does not, in any way, ‘dumb down’ the university. Dedicated access pathways acknowledge the barriers access students may face in gaining entry through some traditional pathways and the evidence is clear - students accessing programmes, even with the highest entry requirements, excel in their programmes when this barrier is removed.

Mainstreaming in the context of education usually refers to the practice of integrating all students into one common stream. At primary and secondary level it refers to the practice of integrating students with disabilities into mainstream classes, rather than segregating them elsewhere. In Higher Education mainstreaming refers to a broader agenda to ensure that all students are supported and can thrive in the mainstream educational environment of a Higher Education Institution regardless of their background, socio-economic status, age or disability. 

The (opens in a new window)HEA National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 (2015) is based on the following principle “Equity of access policies should be mainstreamed into the everyday life of higher education institutions to enhance the quality of the learning experience and progression outcomes for all students.” (p. 16). In UCD the University for All initiative is mainstreaming equity of access into all areas of the university including all parts of the student journey namely outreach, enrolment planning, teaching, learning and assessment, supports and services, the built environment and the technological infrastructure. We are aiming for a flexible inclusive educational experience for all students, mainstreaming equity and access rather than setting up parallel or siloed systems for individual students or groups of students.

UCD have agreed a target of 35% undergraduate widening participation by 2024. This is a Key Performance Indicator for the University and acts as a quantifiable measure of widening participation performance over 3 years. The target groups are those identified as underrepresented in the (opens in a new window)HEA National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 (2015)

  • Low income: Up to 2018-19 includes students from designated socio-economic groups determined by the HEA. New KPI agreed for 2019-20 onwards means this group now includes those in receipt of SUSI Special Rate Grant, those who enter through the HEAR route, those who are in receipt of a means-tested UCD or HEA scholarship, those who attended DEIS secondary schools, and those in receipt of Lone Parent financial supports. 
  • Disability: Students who declare a disability on the Equal Access Survey or avail of disability support through ALL.
  • Mature: Students over the age of 23 entering higher education for the first time.
  • Part Time: Any student studying part time, including Open Learners.
  • QQI-FET: Students who enter UCD holding a FETAC/HETAC/QQI award.
  • Refugees and protection applicants (asylum seekers): Students who are refugees, asylum seekers or those given leave to remain who are availing of support from ALL through UCD's Sanctuary Programme.

As part of enrolment planning every UCD undergraduate programme creates targeted places for students entering through designated access routes (HEAR, DARE, Mature, QQI-FET, Open Learning). These places, sometimes also referred to as reserved places, assist in widening participation to undergraduate programmes enabling equitable access to UCD. These targets are transferable across access groups to allow for maximum diversity of admissions. To learn more or spread the message about diversity in UCD check out our Data Infographics.

University for All

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
E: UniversityforAll@ucd.ie