South East Technological University (SETU) has been awarded €1million in funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for its partnership with An Cosán, Ireland’s largest community education provider.
The announcement was made this week by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, at the HEA’s System Performance Framework launch hosted at SETU’s campus in Carlow. The university was among five higher education institutions who together received €5.5million combined. The funding was awarded on the strength of a case study submitted to the HEA by SETU Lifelong Learning entitled: SETU and An Cosán: Using the power of community education to create transformative higher education pathways for social inclusion and sustainable development.
SETU Lifelong Learning has worked in collaboration with An Cosán since 2008 in the development and delivery of higher education courses to the organisation’s learners. The collaboration has been recognised nationally as a model of engagement that breaks the cycle of educational disadvantage and reaches learners who would not traditionally have had access to third-level education.
An Cosán’s learner-centred, holistic, and transformative educational model was initially based around targeting priority groups in the local community in Tallaght, Co. Dublin. Through its partnership with SETU Lifelong Learning, this was expanded to establish a national Linked Provision programme that has demonstrated leadership in equity of access, participation, and success. The initiative now provides third-level opportunities for over 100 learners annually, who study across a range of disciplines and award levels. SETU’s facilitation of online course delivery combined An Cosán’s extensive offering of wraparound supports, including hospitality and childcare, flexible scheduling, and tutor support, facilitates greater access, inclusion, and participation on courses.
Speaking on the announcement of the award, Rosemary Flynn, Director of Lifelong Learning at SETU in Carlow, commented, “This award recognises our learner-centred, holistic, and transformative model of education and consistently ensures priority groups’ access, participation, and personal and academic achievement. This award is focused on our learners - they are leaders in their homes, families and their communities and we look forward to working with An Cosán in this new phase of our partnership.”
Heydi Foster, Chief Executive Officer at An Cosán, said, “We are thrilled our valuable Linked Partnership with SETU has been recognised in this way by the Higher Education Authority. The Performance Fund grant will ensure we continue to reach the furthest behind first, through our progressive pathways to higher education. We look forward to further collaboration with SETU and to expanding our successful community-based higher education programmes so that more adult learners from marginalised communities across Ireland can achieve empowerment through education.”
This award of HEA System Performance funding enables the partners to further develop the portfolio of SETU awards available to An Cosán learners, to evaluate the outcomes for participants and to share learnings in the context of national and EU policy. Moreover, the partnership has opened a world of possibilities and a brighter future for learners who have been able to progress through higher education, enter quality employment, exit poverty, improve quality of life for their families, and foster community development.