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University for All Symposium

The University for All Symposium is back!

In May, we were delighted to host our first in-person University for All Symposium back on UCD campus since 2019. Building on our Seminar series launched during the pandemic, this was a hybrid event catering for our colleagues across the country and further afield. The focus of this Symposium was ‘Enhancing student engagement in a COVID world – is universal design the answer?’. Acting President Prof Mark Rogers opened the event stating that “the use of Universal Design eliminates the need for student labels and turns ‘deficit’ thinking on its head”. Universal Design is key to adopting a University for All approach and further commented that “Universal Design thinking offers a practical solution to meeting the needs of all students”.

We were delighted to welcome Dr Thomas J Tobin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, global expert on universal design for learning, to give the keynote address. In his interactive address, Dr Tobin gave practical tips and advice on how to embed UDL within wider EDI initiatives and strategies and how to define areas in interactions with students that are good starting points for more-inclusive design efforts. He explained how to adopt Plus 1 thinking in UDL implementation and how to effect change with limited time and resources as well as how to influence leadership colleagues. Central to this was the importance of trusting and listening to students. Dr Tobin, expertly navigated our hybrid approach, involving the online audience into the discussions throughout. 

After a well deserved break with ice-cream, Julie Tonge, Project Lead for the Faculty Partnership Programme opened the lightning round of presentations given by the Faculty Partners from all six UCD Colleges. These presentations explored transferable and practical UDL interventions applicable across disciplines including how to:

  • Persuade colleagues to undertake the Digital Badge in Universal Design for Teaching & Learning
  • Adopt and utilise new technologies for creating accessible learning materials
  • Empower students and tutors through rubrics and templates
  • Create resources to raise awareness and adoption of UDL among colleagues
  • Develop UDL methodologies in studio work
  • Embed UDL into the design of new programmes and modules
  • Present learning materials in alternative formats and offer diverse assessments

To close the Symposium, Prof Grace Mulchahy, Chair of the Widening Participation Committee launched the ‘Who Counts? University for All Data, Metrics, and Evidence 2020-2021’. This report is the first of its kind in Irish Higher Education and offers the sector a roadmap for data gathering and dissemination.

The following day, Dr Tobin hosted a UDL Masterclass for UCD leadership, Widening Participation Leads and the Faculty Partners. His message was simple, rather than trusting everyone to “do the right thing” seek to assign resources to create systems that require good practices, like the required alt-text field on the screen, or a workflow in your media services area that requires the staff to create captions for all video content produced through that office. He implored colleagues to commit to core UDL applications to be implemented institution-wide, along with milestones for measuring success. This transforms accessibility and inclusion from “extra effort” to “everyday tasks.”

Recoridngs from the Symposium are (opens in a new window)available here.

University for All

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