The National Charter of Universal Design for Tertiary Education
The recent criteria for the newly released National Access Plan, particularly under the PATH 4 phase I stream, called for all HEIs to address Universal Design/ Universal Design for Learning within their HEA funding applications.
Ahead of the preparation for individual institution funding application responses to the HEA which were submitted on the 14th of October, AHEAD in collaboration with the IUA and THEA, reached out to all HEIs to initiate a collected response in applications through joined up thinking to respond to the needs of the students of Ireland.
Working through the summer months on this, there was a large response to this call by AHEAD for a national ‘Think In’ and what had been formed as a result is 4 work project packages addressing the criteria of PATH 4, Phase I where various institutes committed to being either lead, partners, or collaborators on these national packages.
The Four National Projects are:
(i.) Develop a National Charter for the Implementation Universal Design in Tertiary Education (UD for 3 Charter).
(ii.) Universal Design training package for senior Leaders in Tertiary Education and a Symposium for Leadership
(iii.) Community of practice to explore collaborations and enhancements of opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities; HE, FE, INHEF, private sector, and NGO’s.
(iv.) Developing a template Web Accessibility Statement for Tertiary Education Institutions. ATU Sligo are leading on two of these projects and are partnering and collaborating on the others.
The aim of this overview is to bring to your attention the first project mentioned which is the ‘Develop a National Charter for the Implementation Universal Design in Tertiary Education (UD for 3 Charter).’
While the rise in discourse about universal design and UDL practice in tertiary education has risen markedly in recent years, there is often misconceptions about what universal design is (as distinct from UDL), a lack of national understanding about what areas of further and higher education we can apply UD approaches to, and what that would look like in practice.
This project involves utilizing the UCD Toolkit for Inclusive Higher Education Institutions (under revision in tandem with this project) as the background to this development. The accompanying Toolkit will support ETBs and HEIs to measure their progress against 4 pillars and create a reflective action plan for future development in this area. The pillars in the toolkit address teaching & learning, student services, physical- built environment and IT/ Digital accessibility.
The charter/toolkit will also address the systems and policies which underpin these pillars, and the output will clearly demonstrate how the implementation of universal design supports ETBs and higher education institutions to align with other national targets such as those concerning retention and learner success.
Widening the scope from student centred learning, this charter will explore how a universal design approach can help us to support a diverse staff profile to succeed in FET and higher education. It is envisaged that on completion of the project, institutions would be encouraged to formally adopt the charter as something they are working towards, and that organizations like AHEAD could play an important national role in supporting institutions to adopt and work towards it.
The project team also envisages this output being important in the future shaping of institutional policies and practices regarding student success and UDL.
This National Charter group has a lot of interest and input from colleagues across 15 HEIs, AHEAD, THEA, SOLAS, NTO, and IUA. An invitation has been extended to the USI to join this collaboration.
The following are the agreed outputs of this group within the 1-year timeframe we are given for this work:
- Develop a National Charter for Universal Design in Tertiary Education. -this includes the desire of the group to incorporate FET and look towards a unified tertiary view of UD.
- Develop a Position Paper exploring and featuring recommendations on how this charter may be built systemically into governing and funding mechanisms.
- Design and publish the National Charter.
- Launch the National Charter in conjunction with AHEAD Conference Spring 2024.
It is envisaged that on completion of the project, institutions would be encouraged to formally adopt the charter as something they are working towards, and that organisations like AHEAD could play an important national role in supporting institutions to adopt and work towards it. The project team also envisages this output being important in the future shaping of institutional policies regarding student success and UDL.
The accompanying Toolkit will support ETBs and HEIs to measure their progress against the 4 pillars and create a reflective action plan for future development in this area.
See the original toolkit which will be updated to reflect the charter consultations and the broadening of applicability to FET contexts here.
This project would like to seek the high-level support of HEI registrars, and hope that your institutions will both contribute to the planned consultations later in the year and consider adopting the Charter and working towards it on its completion.
National UD Charter Consultations:
The National UD Charter team took part in the first consultation. The current UCD Inclusive Toolkit (reviewing the 4 pillars; teaching & learning, student supports & services, physical environment, digital environment) were reviewed and 162 gaps were identified. From this consultation draft 1 of the charter was created.
Stakeholder Consultations: The National UD Charter project was introduced to various key stakeholder groups and invitation for further consultation opportunities have been extended. Each of the stakeholders named below have agreed to consult further as the Charter moves into the next phase of the draft process. (IUA Registrars, ETBI – Inclusion & Strategy Committee, SOLAS, NTO, DAWN Network, THEA Registrars)
AHEAD Conference Consultation – 2 Day whole conference consultation identifying challenges and solutions for a universally designed whole systems approach. Result -4 challenge statements within each pillar & 33 key solution statements were identified. The National UD Charter team reviewed the outputs generated from this consultation. The next draft phase of the Charter was created as a result.
Staff & Student Consultations – currently underway with every Charter Team member’s institution. Staff and students will be consulted on the current draft of the charter.
What will result will be the next draft phase of the Charter.
The current national team:
Thomas O Shaughnessy
Siobhan Mac Garry
Gearoid O Suilleabhain
For further information, please feel free to contact our team members: