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October 26th 2010 Volume 18, Issue 4

Express University College Cork

Retention rate of students with disabilities causes concern after report findings

Kate Magner A recent report found that 25%

of students surveyed with disabili- ties since 2005 did not complete their degrees. A collective research project between UCC and CIT is the first of its kind to track the suc- cess of third-level students with disabilities in depth on a national level. The report commissioned by Pathways to Education, a joint ac- cess initiative between the two in- stitutions, tracked the retention, progression and success of 438 stu- dents in nine higher education in- stitutions from their enrolment in 2005 to the completion of their studies. UCC Students’ Union Equality

Officer, Dave Carey commented that “The largest concern that it brings to light for me is the reten- tion rate of students registered with the Disability Support Services. Over the course of the study 25% of students being tracked did not complete their degree. “This is a worryingly high num-

ber and one that I fear would con- tinue to rise if further cuts occur to the support services UCC provide these students. However, this breakdown also allows us to ex- plore the reasons for poor retention and will hopefully enable us to im- prove university life for students with disabilities." The number of students with

disabilities, examination results and general student population fig- ures were collected from the data- bases of Athlone IT, CIT, DCU, DIT, NUIG, NUIM, IT Tallaght, TCD and UCC. Further data was collected from the case study insti- tutions, UCC and CIT, as well as interviews with students about

their university experience. The findings reveal a high level

of students with disabilities com- plete their studies (85.4% nation- ally, 75% in UCC). Nationally, blind/vision impaired students had the highest completion rate (92%), while students with mental health difficulty had the lowest (56%). Within UCC, specific learning dis- ability was the category with the highest percentage of students completing their courses (87%). Again, students with mental

health difficulties had the lowest percentage of 31%. However Mary O’Grady, Head of Disability Sup- port Services UCC, believes this figure could now be significantly higher as a new Disability Support Officer was employed in 2007 specifically to help students with mental health difficulties and a closer liaison established between the DSS and Guidance/Coun- selling services in UCC. From a grades perspective, 99%

of students who took their final ex- aminations received first or second class honours. According to Martin Flynn, Project Manager of Path- ways to Education, “in terms of how they [students with disabili- ties] perform and how they’re re- tained, they are almost exactly in line with the traditional student in- take.” In the interviews with students,

integration into the mainstream of university life was very important, with one student saying “what is most important for me is the ‘nor- mal’ integration with others.” An- other aspect was the educational supports provided through the Fund for Students with Disabili- ties, managed by the National Ac-

cess Office (NAO). “I absolutely would not cope without my sup- ports in college... I would have dropped out.” The report will be a valuable

tool of source information for many people such as prospective students with disabilities and their parents, school guidance counsel- lors, disability support co-ordina- tors, policy makers and funders. Instead of relying on anecdotes of former students, Ms. O’Grady said, “Now we can give a document, and the document and research is very comprehensive.” With the report also comes a se-

ries of recommendations, Martin Flynn explains, one being that “this type of study would be continued or expanded... or the NAO would actually initiate a long-term process themselves for all institu- tions actually find out what the student experience is and how pol- icy should change to reflect that.” Another which Mary O’Grady of- fered would be a survey of the first destination of the 2005 students, “how many have gone on to fourth level education, how many have made the progression into employ- ment.” From a financial perspective,

the Fund for Students with Disabil- ities still provides for students’ needs. With the increasing role of Assistive Technology, “if students are more competent and see the value of technology, then they don’t need a lot funding for human support. They’re enabled by tech- nology. Already the university has necessary hardware and software put in place which will have lasting effects for current and incoming students.”

Cork Jazz Festival

Goldfish treat music fans last weekend as the Cork Jazz Fes- tival brought out people in their droves. Photo: Julia Healy.

UCC students to participate in Dublin protest

Byron Murphy Deputy/ News Editor

As many as 1000 University Col- lege Cork students will be travel- ling to Dublin to take part in a march to protest expected cuts in education in the upcoming budget. The November 3rd march, organ- ised by the Union of Students in Ireland, has been sub-titled “Edu- cation Not Emigration”, and calls for the capping of the Student Services Charge along with a halt to any cuts in the Higher Education

Grant. UCC’s Students’ Union will be

providing transport to Dublin and t-shirts freely for up to 1000 stu- dents on the day of the protest. USI has organised the protest, which they hope will attract up to 25,000 students from around the country and even from colleges in Northern Ireland, due to a forecasted 4 bil- lion Euro worth of cuts in Decem- ber budgets, of which more than 1 billion may come from education.

Continued on page 5.

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