How the Communiversity introduces people to higher education
Dr Derek Barter, Department of Adult & Community Education
The Communiversity is a gateway for people to enter higher education, but it’s much more than just another education project or programme. It can be the first point of contact for people who would not normally think of university as a place for them. It can also give them the ability to find out for themselves whether they would like to go further without having to commit to years of study or fees. But it goes further than that and hopefully it gives people the chance to explore just who they are and where they fit in.
How it works is that the participant attends one morning per week in their local library for two to two and a half hours. They take subjects such as local history - which is nearly always the first module as everybody knows something about their only area and it’s a good way to make people comfortable in the course - politics, sociology and philosophy (critical thinking). Other choices include English, economics, geography, community development, youth work and addiction studies.
One of the most unique features of the Communiversity is that it is a real partnership arrangement. It is based on a common purpose which is to provide the participant with an educational and social opportunity that they would never have had before and one that is shared by all three partners.
Maynooth University provide the lecturers, facilitators and tutors and co-ordinate the programme. Local libraries provide a network of venues around the country that can be used for delivery of the Communiversity programme. The Communiversity pilot project has had very positive feedback from librarians who have experienced the programme in their premises. In many cases, Communiversity participants are new to library services and continue to use the library when the programme has concluded. Communiversities have been successfully rolled out in Dublin areas which have been identified as having low participation rates in higher education such as Coolock, Darndale, Crumlin, Dolphin’s Barn and Ballyfermot. Libraries eager to come on board include Ballymun, Blanchardstown, Rush and Swords.