The 1992 Teagasc Rural Action Training and Advisory Committee (RUTAC) identified the education and training needs of rural populations and how to service those needs through academic course provision. In response, the National Univerity of Ireland (NUI) and its' four universities (Maynooth University, Univerity College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD), and NUI Galway) combined to collectively plan and deliver the Diploma and BSc Degree in Rural Development by Distance Learning.

This very successful programme was delivered from 1996 to 2015 graduating hundreds of students who went on to be leaders in rural development organisations locally and nationally. The programme was innovative as

  • there was sharing of content preparation, delivery and student services across institutions;
  • distance delivery was piloted and developed over the course of the programme;
  • there was stakeholder participation from local communities and the LEADE|R LAGs, to the NUI and its constituent universities, the Department of Agriculture, and the EU;.
  • it met the RUTAC recommendations for education and training needs of rural populations;
  • it was truly collegial and collaborative.

 Recently, July 2020, the NUI launched a post-programme study of the Diploma and BSc Degree in Rural Development to review and make recommendations on:

  • The inter-institutional partnership model between the universities and government departments, state agencies, LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs), and other community and voluntary organisations that were involved in programme delivery;
  • The student and graduate profile on the programmes, progression and completion rates;
  • The student experience of the Diploma and BSc Degree programmes;
  • The personal and professional impact of the programmes on the alumni and the rural communities where they lived and worked;
  • The impact of the programmes on rural development policy formulation.
  • The funding model for the programmes.

The study is supervised by the Study Steering Group of the four constituent universities [Maynooth University (Michael Kenny, UCC (Dr. Mary O'Shaughnessy, UCD (Dr. Pádraig Wims and Dr. Karen Keaveney, NUI Galway (Dr. Marie Mahon], Stakeholders (Department of Rural and Community Development: Aisling Penrose (DRCD) and led by the National University of Ireland (Dr. Attracta Halpin (Registrar) and Patricia Maguire (; Working with the study consultants: Brendan O’Keefe and Kathy Walsh.

Further information available from any of the steering committee.