Universal Design for Learning National Conference 2023

Hosted by ATU in collaboration with MTU
UDL Logo and Title
DATE: Thursday, 1st June 2023
LOCATION: Hume Hall, ATU Sligo

Climbing the UDL Ladder: Building a Culture of Inclusion in Higher Education: "Overcoming Obstacles to Enhance and Sustain UDL Collaboration in Tertiary Education"

This year, Atlantic Technological University (ATU) and Munster Technological University (MTU) have united to deliver a National UDL Conference.

The conference not only explores a whole Institute approach to UDL but draws on learning and reflection from the HEA Path 4 Phase 1 Project in which both Universities partnered on a work package considering leadership approaches to supporting UD.

With increased evidence available on the effectiveness of UDL creating a more inclusive environment across classrooms in Further & Higher Education, this year we explore UDL from three key perspectives: Leaders, academics, and student services.

Conference Details

Conference Themes:

I. UDL in Leadership: Opportunities and challenges in supporting sustainable inclusive learning in further and higher education. Presenters will guide conference participants through an examination of development processes (be it evidenced or aspirational) recognising the importance of supports for programme teams when designing programmes of study that considers the variability of the student body. By promoting the empowerment of staff and learners, educational leaders can build cohesive and resilient learning environments that support sustainable inclusion.II. Furthering UDL in the classroom: An academic perspective on overcoming obstacles. Presentations will address alternative pathways to success which remove potential barriers making learning goals attainable. This discourse will consider a positive learning environment with flexibility built from the onset be it based in evidence or recommended, ensuring that flexibility, accessibility and learner voice and choice are built into all approaches to teaching and learning. III. Empowering the inclusive student experience: Student Services approaches. Presentations will showcase the promotion of removing barriers to education by student support services who are key players in this process. These presentations address a whole systems educational design as a driver in relation to student wellbeing. Innovative approaches to student support are most welcomed.

Conference Speakers

Keynote Speaker: Dara Ryder - AHEAD

Dara Ryder is Chief Executive Officer of AHEAD, having previously managed AHEAD’s digital presence and developed a suite of online CPD programmes relating to inclusive practice in his role as Digital Media and eLearning Manager there. After graduating from Queens University in 2005, Dara joined Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education as a lecturer, where he became interested in inclusive education when working first-hand with students with disabilities in his classroom.  When the opportunity arose in 2008, he joined AHEAD where he has been working ever since on creating inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities.

Guest Presenters

Theme I. UDL in Leadership: Opportunities and challenges in supporting sustainable inclusive learning in further and higher education

Mr. James Northridge, University College Cork

Presentation Title: Institutional Partnerships Towards Inclusion at UCC

Bio: Having Dyslexia and ADHD, James understands the learning challenges that students face. After struggling throughout school due to his own learning challenges and dropping out of University, a second chance came his way. He turned it around, earning a first-class honours degree from University College Cork and a Masters in Disability Studies from University College Dublin. James is currently the Project Manager for UCC's innovative "Inclusive UCC" project, which is focused on making UCC a leader in Universal Design and Accessibility.

Dr. Frederic Fovet, Thompson Rivers, University

Presentation Title: Getting the message across silos: exploring the difficult art of involving multidisciplinary campus partners in UDL implementation and growth.

Bio: Frederic is a UDL and Inclusion scholar. He consults both domestically in Canada and overseas with post-secondary institutions and the K-12 sector in relation to Disability, Inclusion, UDL, learner diversity and critical pedagogy. Much of his current research focuses on the strategic process of UDL implementation across organizations.

Theme II. Furthering UDL in the Classroom: An academic perspective on overcoming obstacles.

Dr. Clare Finnegan-Coyne, St. Angela's College, Sligo

Presentation Title: Digital Innovation in Science Education (DISE): A UDL approach to support learning in science practical classes.

Bio: Clare is a lecturer in Biology in St. Angela’s College, Sligo. She received her PhD from Maynooth University in 2018 with a doctoral thesis on lung immunology. Since joining St. Angela’s College in 2018, Clare has carried out research on digital innovations in science practical classes in third level education and most recently examining student outcomes following degree completion with ATU Sligo.

Dr. Ruth Quinn, Atlantic Technological University

Presentation Title: Obstacles, doubts and sleepless nights: A story of my imperfect implementation of UDL at a technological university.

Bio: Ruth is a water engineer that focuses on community water management. I have worked on many interdisciplinary projects, such as sand dams in Kenya, sustainable diets, and reimagining spaces to store water. Ruth has recently transitioned to a more teaching-focused role and is keen to implement research-led teaching in her modules and combine it with other teaching practices, such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Theme III. Empowering the inclusive student experience: Student Services approaches.

Ms. Jane Brennan, Munster Technological University

Presentation Title: Flexible, personal and individualised study guidance: a keystone for inclusion.

Bio: Jane Brennan is a teacher of language and communication with a background including second-level, FE and higher education. She is currently Study Guidance Facilitator at MTU in Tralee.

Ms. Mandy Kelly, Insurance Institute of Ireland

Presentation Title: Amplifying the Student voice through equity, diversity, and educational innovation

Bio: Mandy is an education development specialist with over thirteen years experience in the education field. Mandy has a B.A Hons in Economics, Politics and Law. She has spent eight years working as a teacher in the U.A.E where she completed a PGCE with the University of Sunderland. When she returned to Ireland in 2017, she transitioned to a career in adult education. In 2019 she joined the Insurance Institute and works as an education development specialist.

Nationally Funded Project Presentations

UDL in Leadership

Leadership in Universal Design Training Package for Senior Leaders – A Symposium for Tertiary Education to share views on proposed training package and future of tertiary education.


This is a collaborative project led by ATU in partnership with MTU and in collaboration with NStEPS,  IADT, RCSI, MIC, UL, MU, UCC, UG, MSLETB, and Kerry ETB.  This symposium will share units of the pilot training package in development to garnish attendees’ views and stimulate discussion and debate on what senior leaders wish the package to contain to enhance future leaders’ UD practices in tertiary education.  Attendees will have the opportunity to share experiences of challenges and opportunities to embed UD in tertiary education.  Attendees will be updated and welcomed to PATH 4 national collaborative tertiary actions on the development of leadership in UD and the development of the Charter in UD for Tertiary education.  The symposium will focus on continuing to enhance cross-collaborations in tertiary education to together enhance UD applications in strategy, policy, and Implementation for furthering equity of educational experience for all students and staff.

Furthering UDL in the Classroom

Implementing UDL, the Benefits, and Barriers, listening to the voice of faculty and staff.   

The training is complete, faculty are committed to UDL, and changes have been made to teaching strategies, but what comes next? What do faculty and staff who are implementing UDL identify as the benefits of UDL, and what challenges have they encountered?  Finally, what changes need to be made for the continued success of UDL across the academic institution? 


Faculty and staff across the ATU, who completed the UDL digital badge, were invited to a focus group session to share their experience with implementing UDL, including student reactions, implementation challenges, and satisfaction with UDL. Participants were asked to complete online questions, that allowed the facilitators to guide the group discussion. This presentation will provide a synthesis of the focus group sessions, identifying common themes as we look to find answers to the benefits and barriers to UDL implementation.  

Student Empowerment

Underpinning Genuine Student Partnerships; Starting the Conversation of Engagement, Representation and Action


As educators, and professional support staff, the Student is at the heart of everything we do. Authentic Student Partnership is built on relationship which consider many aspects of the student experience.  In order to ensure students can authentically partner, we need to look at the pre-requisites to student engagement and listen to the student voice in terms of how to build relationships accessibly.

UDL Conference Recording
Morning Session

UDL Conference Recording
Afternoon Session

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For further information please feel free to contact us at teachingandlearningcentre@nullatu.ie, or you can follow us on Twitter: @ATUSligoTLC.