Using a variety of integrated approaches, the DIT Community Links Programme is a model of civic engagement in Higher Education, as acknowledged in the recently published National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (2011). The overall objective of the Programme is to help alleviate educational disadvantage, widen participation in higher education and enhance civic engagement, particularly in inner-city Dublin, although some of the programmes operate at national and international levels.
The Community Links Programme targets socio-economically disadvantaged people at primary, secondary, tertiary and community level. Interventions take the form of projects/programmes in schools and communities that involve engagement and the enhancement of self-esteem, confidence and motivation, while making learning fun. The programme supports socio-economically disadvantaged learners of all ages to access higher education, and supports those disadvantaged students who progress to higher education but may still require continuing support and guidance. There are also programmes that develop the social awareness and community engagement of the broader student population. All Community Links programmes work together with students and staff in DIT.
The Community Links Programme currently has five major, highly targeted programmes:
• Computer Learning in Communities
• The Ballymun Music Programme
• The Access Service
• The Mature Student Access Programme
• Students Learning with Communities
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Computer Learning in Communities:CLiC was established in 2011 and is built on 13 years of experience and knowledge gained on programmes that promoted the benefits and successful use of ICT in education. CLiC aims to provide education via ICT to Dublin inner city communities. This is achieved through three initiatives within the programme: Clic in the Community, Clic in schools, and clic mobile. A range of ICT related training and educational opportunities are available to all groups in the programme. The programme assist schools and communities which rarely meet, opportunities to plan, share expertise and develop related programmes for the benefit of their communities. This assists in forming a closer relationship within communities, the school environment and DIT.
The Ballymun Music Programme:The Ballymun music programme provides an entry to the wonderful world of music making .Working in partnership with local schools it provides instrumental tuition and ensemble opportunities on site and in our new Music Room. The programme provides a structure that facilitates the ongoing development of the young musician from the beginning stage through to Leaving Certificate and third level entry.
The Access Service:The DIT Access Service was established in 1999 to assist individuals and communities in overcoming socio-economic barriers to accessing higher education. Dublin Institute of Technology recognises the role of higher education in providing benefits to individuals and communities and is committed to ensuring that people and communities experiencing educational disadvantage are supported in accessing higher education.
The Mature Student Access Programme:The Mature Student Access Course is a one year course at DIT. It is designed for Mature Students (22 years of age on the first of January of the year the course begins) from areas and communities where there is not a strong tradition of participation in third level education. Having successfully completed the one year course participants are then eligible to enter undergraduate courses at DIT.
Students Learning with Communities:
The DIT Programme for Students Learning With Communities supports staff and students engaging in community-based learning and research (also known as service-learning), and builds links with communities. Students Learning With Communities involves DIT staff and/or students working with community partners (local groups, not-for-profit organisations, etc) to develop real-life projects. Learning comes alive for the students as they work on these projects with real clients, applying their specialist subject skills, and receiving course credits for their work. The community becomes part of the teaching process and the students’ work furthers the community's goals. These projects give all participants the opportunity to engage in critical thinking and to develop their social awareness. The Programme for Students Learning With Communities ultimately aims to energise participants to work for social change.
Programme reports, staff research papers and students’ work completed in connection with the Programme for Students Learning With Communities can be found below.