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Higher Education Research Centre

Higher Education Research Centre

Recent and Ongoing HERC Projects

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EUSRExcel (Towards a European University Social Responsibility Excellence Award           

EUSRExcel (Towards a European University Social Responsibility Excellence Award)

Project website: http://socialresponsibilityaward.eu/

Commencing September 2018 and running until 2021, HERC is the Irish partner on the EUSRExcel project (Towards a European University Social Responsibility Excellence Award). EUSRExcel is an Erasmus+ project coordinated by Conexx Europe, a research and development centre of the Free University of Brussels. As part of this project, higher education institutions and research organisations will work together to develop a framework of criteria and indicators of Social Responsibility in Higher Education. The aim is to create a network of universities with a USR ‘quality certification’ while conducting research and training to raise awareness among higher education leadership and staff of the importance and potential of a focus on social responsibility.


EUSRExcel Kick-off Transnational Meeting, November 12-13, 2018

La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy

By Dr. Catherine Maunsell, 27th November, 2018

Taking the first steps ‘Towards a European University Social Responsibility’ EUSRExcel, Tanya Zubrzycki, HERC Researcher and Dr. Catherine Maunsell, School of Human Development, Institute of Education represented HERC at the first meeting of the EUSRExcel project in Rome on 12th-13th November, 2018.

The first meeting, hosted by La Sapienza: Universita di Roma, was productive; introducing the network partners, setting out the research parameters including agreeing  on key project deliverables, timetable of outputs, quality assurance processes  and communications strategies. Demonstrating a level of project management and research partnership which bodes well for the future success of EUSRExcel.

The EUSRExcel project partner organisations comprise:

  • CONEXX-Europe, Belgium (coordinating partner, organisation working in International Cooperation, Research and Development and based at the Free University of Brussels);
  • Innovate4Future, Romania (private research centre active in the field of education & training, innovation and technology);
  • HERC, Dublin City University, Ireland;
  • VAMK-Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, Finland;
  • Innovation Training Centre, Spain (private training and research centre that provides innovative solutions regarding entrepreneurship, training and R&D+i projects);
  • La Sapienza, Universita di Roma, Italy;
  • University of Girona, Spain.

Photos above: EUSRExcel partner organisations' representatives at the Kick-off meeting in Rome, Italy


EUSRExcel 2nd Transnational Meeting, 2019

University of Girona, Spain

The second Transnational EUSRExcel meeting was hosted by the University of Girona. Partners discussed finalising the IO1 deliverable culminating in harmonisation of the USR indicators, creation of an online platform and a Wiki of the USR. Further deliverables of the project were also examined including the objectives of the 'Online self-evaluation tool' and 'Self-evaluation users handbook'.



Photos above: EUSRExcel partner organisations' representatives at the meeting in Girona, Spain

Launch of the website as part of EUSRExcel

Project webpage was launched and wil be continuously updated with project updates, as well as information about the University Social Responsibility (USR) in Europe, and one of the expected outcomes of EUSRExcel project - USR award. Project website also has details about all partner organisations involved int he project. Please visit: http://socialresponsibilityaward.eu/

An article about DCU in the Community on EUSRExcel project webpage

Joanna Ozarowska, DCU in the Community Manager, wrote an article about DCU in the Community initiative which acts as a bridge between the university and the local community in North Dublin. The article was featured on the EUSRExcel project website and can be viewed here. It was also published on EUSRExcel Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/eusrexcel.


An article on 'Encouraging students to engage in USR activities' on EUSRExcel project webpage

An article on 'Encouraging students to engage in USR activities' written by HERC, DCU colleagues was published on EUSRexcel website in August 2020. It connects EUSRexcel with another Erasmus+ project DCU is involved in through HERC (ENGAGE STUDENTS). The article describes teacher's training activity on service learning, with the intention of raising awareness about projects focused on service learning and university social responsibility. 

It can be found on EUSRexcel website: http://socialresponsibilityaward.eu/encouraging-students-to-engage-in-usr-activities/




July 5, 2021

Please join us for EUSRexcel Days: Towards a European University Social Responsibility Excellence Award on July 14, 2021 and August 24, 2021. If interested in attending, please register by clicking anywhere on the flyer below or downloading a pdf with live links here.

EUSRexcel event

EUSRexcel event



October, 2021

EUSRexcel is delighted to announce its final results!

The mobilization of expertise from our key and associated partners have contributed to raising awareness amid the participating universities and external stakeholders such as management boards, administrative staff, academics and researchers that collaborated in this initiative to identify the strengths and weaknesses in terms of socially responsible involvement within their sphere of influence. Furthermore, the work undertaken over 36 months resulted in the creation of a EUSRexcel guide, an Online Self Evaluation tool on USR, a Users Handbook, a Table for Evaluation, a Good practices illustration, Staff Training material, an External Evaluation Board and a USR Quality Seal that integrate a common framework that can be easily used by European universities and with this, promote a harmonization and consciousness of the importance of the Social responsibility within higher education institutions.

Please download Press Note here [pdf, 356KB]

Press Note

More information can be found on the project website at:




ENGAGE STUDENTS project (Promoting social responsibility of students by embedding service learning within HEIs curricula                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

ENGAGE STUDENTS - promoting social responsibility of students by embedding service learning within HEIs curricula

Project website: https://www.engagestudents.eu/

The Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) at DCU is the Irish partner on ENGAGE STUDENTS - an outreach project coordinated by University Politehnica of Bucharest, involving universities from six countries researching the ways in which higher education institutions engage with their local communities (local associations, NGOs etc.).

Building on a previous EU project with which HERC was involved, ENGAGE will work with teachers, students and the community to promote social responsibility of students, embedding service learning within the curricula of higher education institutions. The project will provide active learning opportunities for students in each country based on real-world situations. The learning will develop the students' practical skills as well as abilities to critically engage with communities through service learning. The project will also provide training for teachers in implementing service learning in their universities.

ENGAGE STUDENTS partner organisations comprise:

University Politehnica of Bucharest, Romania

University of Vienna, Austria

Dublin City University, Ireland

Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania

University of Porto, Portugal



The ENGAGE STUDENTS project focuses on social responsibility of higher education institutions at student and teacher level. Strengthening the social dimension in education has been an important European priority (COM(2006) 208 final, 2013/C 168/02), that has been accentuated even further by the Commission in the renewed EU agenda for Higher Education. Innovative curricula and teaching approaches are seen to contribute to reducing the current high-level skills gap between students and labour market needs. Especially the integration of extra-curricular experience into study programmes is identified as solution for enhancing students’ transversal skills, better preparing them for finding a job (COM(2017) 247 final).

The service learning approach aims to strengthen the students’ relationship with the community, with a view to their personal development and civic engagement (Menezes, 2003, Barber, 1991; Colby & Damon, 1992; Dewey, 1966; Waldstein & Reiher, 2001). The essential elements of this learning approach entails the active involvement of students in solving a need identified in the community and intentionally providing spaces for reflecting upon the experiences (Leming, 2001; Trainor, Muscott & Smith, 1996). These approaches can be integrated into the curricula of students or they can be extra-curricular.

In the anglo-american university culture extra-curricular activities have a long tradition and a value when it comes to students looking for a job. Showing a potential employer that you have already engaged in extracurricular activities is seen as an advantage raising students’ employability. In Europe, there have been initiatives to enhance the engagement of university students in the communities they live in, i.e. civic engagement centers, volunteering centers, community research or community-related projects.

In many European countries this approach is rather new, and the system is more formal, credit- and curricula-based becoming more and more important in the last five years. For this reason, we argue that social responsibility of students should be promoted through integration into curricula – this needs specific teaching approaches, namely service-learning, project-based learning and teaching about action research. Moreover, HE teachers need to be trained in how to incorporate these activities into their course concepts.


The project general objective is to empower the social dimension of higher education by increasing its relevance for society through embedding service-learning as a common pedagogical approach within education and research practice.

The project specific objectives are as follows:

  • to explore the existing methodology of service-learning and other forms of community-related learning and research

  • to develop a methodological toolkit and a pedagogical workbook to be used by teachers

  • to build the critical mass of knowledge and resources in partner HEIs in order to foster the use of service learning and other community-related learning methodologies.

The specific aims are divided on 3 levels:


  • To acquire the ability to solve complex problems
  • To develop sense of responsibility and engagement
  • To experience self-efficacy and self-respect
  • To broad their future career choices through communities


  • To implement and test new teaching and student guidance methods
  • To link the theoretical matters with real community problem solving
  • To foster the collaboration with other teachers


  • To raised awareness of ongoing teaching & research at local HEIs
  • To have the opportunity to be a mentor or an expert for students and potential employees
  • To increase the participation in socio-political processes and in solving local problems


  • Students in higher education who are in their advanced studies and have basic knowledge about research and their field of study and want to engage in service-learning to increase their skills.
  • Teachers in higher education who apply the service-learning already and those who have potential courses for such a teaching approach, but who are not familiar with it.
  • Communities – the local environments of HEIs with their local stakeholders (business, NGOs, public services, etc.), who will be asked to share their needs with the university and actively liaise with students, teachers and the project partners through formal/non-formal partnerships.


The consortium will bring together the expertise of HEIs from 6 different local contexts and educational environments having different approaches towards university social responsibility, community engagement, teaching and research methodologies. This cultural diversity together with the different partners’ professional profiles will foster the quality and coverage of the project activities and outputs, increasing this way their usability and transferability.

The ENGAGE STUDENTS project is innovative in 3 ways:

# PRODUCT INNOVATIONdeveloping a methodology toolkit about service learning (IO2) and a workbook for HE teachers (IO3) Teaching teachers is a complex matter, requiring time and practical didactic knowledge. The European added value of this project is centered around the methodology of service learning: teaching methods, which are a) practical in nature, b) relate to real community problems and needs, and c) have a measurable impact on students’ skills for the labour market are crucial for any educational institution throughout Europe, who wants to increase its relevance in society and better fit its educational programmes with labour market needs.

In this project, methodologies focusing on these three aspects are developed and explored in depth (IO2 and IO3) – leading to a Service Learning Methodology Toolkit and a Pedagogical Workbook for teachers. Both products are highly relevant for higher education across Europe, especially countries, in which the unemployment rate of young academics is high.

# PROCESS INNOVATION – developing new ways of teaching teachers (IO3 workbook)

Within the project a teacher’s training will take place (C1), where teachers will learn to apply service learning as a methodology and use the IO3 workbook. In this one-week training programme teachers are equipped with practical know-how and experiences of others in this field. We believe that the educators are the most important target group in this proposition, as they are change agents and interface to both students and the university management.

# SERVICE INNOVATION – developing new ways of matching students and community partners (IO1 web-tool, IO4 student blog)

The ENGAGE STUDENTS project is innovative in not only developing products about service learning, but actually implementing service learning between students and community partners. For this purpose, a web-tool is created, in which community partners can insert their current needs in research, and students can react to it. Students will write about their experiences in a student blog and reflect their experiences for others to follow.


ENGAGE STUDENTS Kick-off Transnational meeting, 26-27 November, 2018

Bucharest Polytechnica University, Romania

The project recently had its first meeting at the Bucharest Polytechnica University, the Coordinator of the project. HERC was represented by Dr. Rob Mark, HERC Honorary Research Fellow and Dr. Alan Gorman, School of Policy and Practice, DCU Institute of Education/ HERC Research Fellow.

DCU will play host to the second partner meeting in Dublin in March 2019.

Photo above: Partner organisations' representatives at the Kick-off meeting for ENGAGE STUDENTS Project in Bucharest, Romania


ENGAGE STUDENTS 2nd Transnational meeting, 11-12 March 2019

Dublin City University, Ireland

In March 2019, HERC, DCU hosted the second ENGAGE STUDENTS project meeting on Dublin City University's St. Patrick's campus. HERC was represented by Prof Maria Slowey, Dr Trudy Corrigan and Tanya Zubrzycki. ENGAGE STUDENTS partners were pleased to welcome presentations form DCU invited speakers whoprovided good practice examples on civic engagement in a number of areas and disciplines:

Ms Christine O’Kelly, Age Friendly Co-ordinator, DCU

Dr Deiric O’Broin, Director, DCU in the Community, Campus Engage, Chair

Dr Emer Ní Bhrádaigh, Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship, Leader of Erasmus+ Strategy for Chance Social Innovation project in conjunction with DCU OSL

Meeting agenda included discussion of findings from IO1 'Needs Analysis in the Local Communities'; discussion on Teacher's Training Week on Service Learning in February 2020 in Vienna and Summer School on Service Learnign later in the year in Portugal. Web tool was presented and sicussed, as well as dissemiantion effrots and management issues.

Photo above: Partner organisations' representatives at the second meeting for ENGAGE STUDENTS Project in Dublin, Ireland, hosted by HERC, DCU


ENGAGE STUDENTS 3rd Transnational meeting, 9-10 September 2019

Universita degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

University of Sapienza in Rome, Italy was the host of the 3rd Transnational Meeting of ENGAGE STUDENTS project. HERC was represented by Dr Emer Ní Bhrádaigh, Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship at DCU and Leader of Erasmus+ Strategy for Chance Social Innovation project in conjunction with DCU OSL.

Discussions focused around finalising the Service Learning Methodology Toolkit (IO2) and initial allocation of tasks for another project output - a Workbook 'How to do service learing'. This was followed by a hands-on session on using the webtool, as part of IO1 lead by University of Bucharest. Further details were clarified regarding Teacher's Training Week on Service Learning in February 2020 (Vienna) and Summer School on Service Learning (Portugal).


Winter School - Service Learning week in University of Vienna, Austria

As part of Engage Students project, Teachers' Training Week on Service Learning will take place in the University of Vienna, Austria, 17-21 February 2020. We are delighted to announce that a number of colleagues from DCU who work with service-learning approaches (or other similar methods to involve students into communities) will be attending!


Vienna Service Learning Week



Winter School - Service Learning week in University of Vienna, Austria

As part of Engage Students project, a Service Learning Week took place in the University of Vienna, Austria, 17-21 February 2020, attended by several colleagues on behalf of DCU.

The Service Learning Week comprised a number of keynote addresses and workshops aimed at supporting colleagues in higher education institutions who (want to) work with service-learning approaches or other similar methods to link community service with learning activities.

The first keynote address was delivered by Dr Lorraine McIlrath (NUIG, Ireland) on the topic of 'Campus Cartography - Embedding and Institutionalising Service Learning as an Ethos and Practice within Higher Education'. Dr McIlrath addressed the ethos and practice of service learning in an Irish and European context, and presented a case study on Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) where service learning started to become institutionalised in the National University of Ireland, Galway, following the award of philantropic funding in 2004.

Another keynote on the topic of 'Academia and Social Responsibility: The Third Mission Strategy Project of the University of Vienna' was given by Barbara Schober (Austria), while keynote addresses by Ilse Schrittesser (Austria) and Katrin Kleeman (Germany) discussed partnerships between schools and the University of Vienna as well as the role of Service Learning in teacher education.

Participants have found particularly interesting several group discussions organised as part of the Winter School, topics included the foundations of Service Learning, connecting it to other concepts, involving community partners, as well as different forms of recognition of Service Learning.

Professor Slowey and Tanya Zubrzycki attended the ENGAGE Students Transnational Partner Meeting held on the second day of the Winter School.


Photo above: DCU colleagues at the ENGAGE STUDENTS Service Learning Week at the University of Vienna, Austria

ENGAGE STUDENTS Service Learning Week at the University of Vienna, Austria

Photo above: Keynote presentation during the ENGAGE STUDENTS Service Learning Week at the University of Vienna, Austria by Prof. Ilse Schrittesser on the topic 'Service Learning in Teacher Education. The Case of the Practicum'. 


ENGAGE STUDENTS 4th Transnational meeting, 18 February 2020

University of Vienna, Austria

The 4th Transnational Meeting initially focused on the first draft of the IO3 Workbook 'How to do service learning in higher education'. A draft has been circulated within the partnership and to the participants of the Winter School, who were asked to give a feedback on potential improvements. Partners in each country will hold focus groups in the coming months to receive further feedback on the Workbook, and final draft will be finalised by September 2020.

Further details were clarified regarding IO4 - a 'Study on students' experiences with service learning', with the aim of actively involve students in sharing their service learning experiences on a blog available for students and people interested in service learning all over Europe, thereby enhancing its impact, dissemination value and sustainability of project outputs. This was followed by a hands-on session on using the webtool, as part of IO1 lead by University of Bucharest. 

Partners from the University of Porto presented their proposal for hostng the Summer School on Service Learning in Porto, Portugal scheduled for September 2020. The 5th Transnational Project Meeting is planned to be held in Portugal on 14th-15th of September, 2020 in conjunction with LTTA C2 Summer School.


May 2020 update: unfortunately, due to COVID-19 related restrictions some adjustments will need to be made to the planned Summer School in Porto, Portugal. Please check back with us shortly.


An article about ENGAGE STUDENTS project

An article about the ENGAGE STUDENTS project and its associated activities was written as part of another Erasmus+ project HERC is involved in, titled 'EUSRexcel' (more details about this project can be found above). It was uploaded on EUSRexcel project website:


Photo of website showing a keynote speaker and audience in the University of Vienna

While the article was aimed to support dissemination of the ENGAGE STUDENTS project, it also served a wider purpose of promoting the initiatives focused on service learning. As such, it discussed the Staff Development Week held in Spring 2020, in the University of Vienna, Austria, held as part of ENGAGE STUDENTS. This was attended by nearly 40 academics and support staff who wished to learn more about civic engagement. The event comprised a number of keynote addresses and workshops aimed at supporting colleagues in higher education institutions who aspire to, or already work with, service learning approaches or other similar methods to link students’ community outreach work with learning activities.

It highlighted that the term ‘service learning’ is more commonly used in North American universities, and colleagues had the opportunity to discuss and debate what equivalent terms and concepts were actually relevant to their own countries, languages and institutions.


image of a phone

ENGAGE STUDENTS interim partner meeting, May 21 2020 (by Skype)

The interim ENGAGE STUDENTS partner meeting took place on May 21, 2020 and started off with a discussion of the latest draft of the IO3 Workbook 'How to do service learning'. It was decided that, to reflect the current online learning environment most countries are finding themselves due to the pandemic, an element of eService Learning would be introduced in the Workbook, possibly comprising a chapter. 

This was followed by a discussion of re-planning the tasks associated with the Summer School planned for Porto, Portugal in September 2020, to address the restrictions due to the Coronavirus outbreak. 


image of a zoom meeting

ENGAGE STUDENTS 5th Transnational meeting, 14-15 September 2020 (by Skype)

The 5th Transnational Meeting was carried out virtually and initially focused on discussion of the IO3 Workbook 'How to do service learning in higher education'. A draft has been circulated within the partnership, and in Ireland it was also circulated for peer review. Received feedback would be integrated into the Workbook by October 31, 2020 and final draft disseminated to partners by October 31, 2020.

Further details were clarified regarding IO4 - a 'Study on students' experiences with service learning', with the aim of actively involve students in sharing their service learning experiences on a blog available for students and people interested in service learning all over Europe, thereby enhancing its impact, dissemination value and sustainability of project outputs. As students' access to service learning projects may be limited during the pandemic, they may have to take part in such projects virtually.


Workbook on 'How to Do Service Learning in Higher Education' is now available!

We are delighted to announce that a final version of the Workbook, one of the main outputs of ENGAGE STUDENTS project, is now available and can be downloaded at the link below:

Please download the Workbook on 'How to Do Service Learning' here (pdf, 7MB)

Since the guide was aimed to be applicable to a number of subject matters and for courses on different levels, it can be easily used by HEIs across Europe. Its usability is further enhanced by a very practical approach, incorporating action plans and practical activities that readers can use.

Picture of a Workbook on Service Learning


April, 2021 update: ENGAGE STUDENTS Spring School

Due to COVID-19 related restrictions, the ENGAGE STUDENTS Spring School will now take place online in May 2021. 

 The course contents will comprise:

1. What is Service Learning (SL).

2. Methods for collecting and analyzing data during SL.

3. How can SL help universities as socially responsible organisations?

Please check back with us shortly!


ENGAGE STUDENTS Final Conference. September 16-17, 2021

Universities Meet Local Communities. Service-Learning in Higher Education.

ES final conference


ES final conference



Update June 1, 2020:

Call for Papers

Organized by European Association for Service-Learning in Higher Education and ENGAGE STUDENTS project partnership

16th- 17th of September 2021, Bucharest, Romania

Hybrid Format (in-person and online)

Universities Meet Local Communities. Service-Learning in Higher Education

Focusing on the contemporary challenges of university-community engagement and partnerships, the 4th European Conference on Service Learning offers space and time for critical reflection on community engagement, the need for embedding Service Learning in the curriculum, and the value of practical experiences in Service Learning for students, teachers, and community partners. The conference is planned as a source of exchange of knowledge from the field of practice and research of Service Learning and building networks in this field.

The conference is organized by the European Association for Service-Learning in Higher Education in collaboration with the partners of the ERASMUS+ Project ENGAGE STUDENTS – Promoting Social Responsibility of Students by Embedding Service-Learning into Educational Curricula (number 2018-1-RO01-KA203-049309)



The conference will be organized in a hybrid format (in-person and online).

However, considering the actual Coronavirus situation that still impose travel restrictions, at this moment we are only accepting submissions for virtual participation.

If the situation changes, we will be ready to welcome you in Bucharest if you can travel, but if you cannot, you will be able to enjoy a truly hybrid experience.



We are inviting contributors to present their theoretical considerations, empirical research, or practical experiences for discussion and sharing of their progress in:

  • Theoretical considerations about SL, e-SL, etc...;
  • Empirical research & practical experiences;
  • Implementing university-community partnerships;
  • Embedding Service-Learning courses in the curriculum;
  • Designing (E-) Service-Learning courses.

Topics of interest range from good practices to general challenges to specific obstacles encountered in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as considerations of strategies to address them.

Papers submitted for review must clearly state:

  • The purpose of the work
  • How and to what extent it advances the state-of-the-art
  • Specific results and their impact



Please submit your abstract with max. 500 words including references via conference online submission platform until June 28, 2021. We look forward to receiving your contributions.



Virtual participation fees

Regular:                                                            50 EUR

EASLHE members:                                             20 EUR

Membership of EASLHE + virtual participation:   40 EUR

The registration fee includes access to all conference sessions and an electronic copy of the conference proceedings.

To be published in the ECSLHE2021 Book of Abstracts, at least one author of an accepted paper is required to register for the conference.

In person participation details will follow if the case.



Call for proposals published:      April 19, 2021
Call for proposals closes:           June 28, 2021
Decision on contributions:         July 9, 2021
Draft programme:                     July 15, 2021
Registration closes:                   September 1, 2021
Final programme:                     September 6, 2021



Organizing Committee

Gabriel Dima (Univ. Politehnica of Bucharest, RO), Chair

Vaida Pilinkiene (Kaunas University of Technology, LT), Vice-Chair

Andrea Hoyer-Neuhold (University of Vienna, AT)

Tanya Zubrzycki (Dublin City University, IE)

Sofia Pais (Univ. of Porto, PT)

Lluis Francesc Peris Cancio (Univ. degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza, IT)

Vladimir Tanasiev (Univ. Politehnica of Bucharest, RO)


Technical Program Committee

Pilar Aramburuzabala (Autonomous University of Madrid, ES), TPC Chair

Nicolas Standaert (KU Leuven, BE), TPC Co-Chair

Katharina Resch (University of Vienna, AT), TPC Vice-Chair

Cinzia Albanesi (Univ. of Bologna, IT)

Alzbeta Brozmanova Gregorova (Matej Bel University, SK)

Joaquim Coimbra (Univ. of Porto, PT)

Irene Culcasi (LUMSA University, IT)

Loredana Manasia (Univ. Politehnica of Bucharest, RO)

Lucas Meijs (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, NL)

Nives Mikelić Preradović (Univ. of Zagreb, HR)

Joana Padrao (Univ. of Algarve, PT)

Rolf Laven (Univ. College of Teacher Education Vienna, AT)

Alina Rusu (Univ. Babeș-Bolyai, RO)

Thomas Sporer (Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, DE)

Jovita Vasauskaitė (Kaunas University of Technology, LT)


September 6, 2021 update: 

We are pleased to invite you to the final event on the  outcomes of the ENGAGE STUDENTS project

(please click on the image below to register)

Invitation to Engage Students final event - Friday, September 17, 2021.pdf


Engage Students final event




INTALL (International and comparative Studies for Students and Practitioners in Adult Learning and Lifelong Learning

INTALL (International and Comparative Studies for Students and Practitioners in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)

Project website: https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/intall/intall/

The Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) at DCU is the Irish partner on INTALL project coordinated by the Julius Maximilians University of Wurzburg, Germany, The project is 36-months in duration, commencing in September or October 2018 and supported under Erasmus+ Programme, Key Action 2 - Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices (KA203 - Strategic Partnerships for higher education). This project will build a network between the two largest European adult education associations and eight European universities, for the first time bringing professionalization activities in adult education and lifelong learning from universities and practice systematically together – educating students together with practitioners in international and comparative studies in adult education and lifelong learning.


Students and practitioners learn together

INTALL is the successor of the ERASMUS + Strategic Partnership COMPALL of the European Commission. The ERASMUS + Strategic Partnership INTALL focuses on the linking of research and practice in comparative adult education, with the aim of professionalizing students and practitioners.

The field of adult and continuing education has been heavily influenced by international developments for many years. The shortage of skilled workers is of concern for the European Commission, and there is a discrepancy between existing and required competencies of professionals in the field of adult education. Particularly striking is the low linkage of university study content with the requirements of practice. The partners on INTALL project have joined forces to advance the understanding and exchange between research and practice, and to provide both students and practitioners with the necessary knowledge and skills in adult education and lifelong learning.

The COMPALL partnership has established the International Winter School "Comparative Studies on Adult Education and Lifelong Learning" at Julius-Maximilians University over the last few years. Building on the existing two-week international study program, specific goals have been developed. A team of professors and lecturers from various universities is working on the concept of innovative teaching methods that will be used in the study program. A blended learning methodology forms the didactic framework, bringing together students and practitioners in a common learning setting. One of the goals is developing the employability of students and practitioners in adult education and continuing education. To make the program inclusive and sustainable, an open access online version of the program is also being developed, which would allow, for example, individuals who are not physically mobile to participate in the learning experience.

The didactic methods and online materials will be made available on the project homepage during the three-year duration of the project (Sept 2019-Sept 2021). In addition, three multiplier events will be carried out, in which the results of the project will be presented and discussed with the international audience. Thus, the consortium creates the opportunity to use the joint module beyond the project consortium. The following dates are planned: September 2019 at Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany; June 2020 at the University of Pécs, Hungary; September 2021 at the European Association for the Education of Adults in Brussels, Belgium.

The INTALL project partner organisations comprise:

Julius Maximilians University of Wurzburg, Germany

Dublin City University, Ireland

University of Florence, Italy

Helmut Schmidt University, Germany

Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal



Universita Degli Studi di Padova, Italy (University of Padova)

University of Pécs, Hungary

DVV International

European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA)

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


INTALL Kick-off meeting, 20-21 November, 2018

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

The INTALL project Kick-off meeting took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 20-21st November, 2018, hosted by University of Ljubljana. Dr. Trudy Corrigan, Lecturer/Researcher in the School of Policy and Practice, Institute of Education, Dublin City University and Tanya Zubrzycki, HERC Researcher represented HERC at this first meeting. The two-day meeting comprised introduction of INTALL partners and setting the research goals and key milestones. Project deliverables have been discussed and agreed upon. The partners have also discussed the timetable of outputs, document sharing and communication strategies, that would help ensure the successful implementation of INTALL deliverables.

Photos below: Kick-off meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia



INTALL second meeting, 2-3 July 2019

Dublin City University, Ireland

In July 2019, HERC, DCU hosted the second INTALL project meeting on Dublin City University's Glasnevin campus. HERC was represented by Prof Maria Slowey, Dr Trudy Corrigan and Tanya Zubrzycki. INTALL partners were pleased to welcome Niamh O'Reilly, Chief Executive Officer of AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation in Ireland, to attend part of the meeting.

INTALL partner meeting in Dublin



July 2019

Announcement of 7th International Winter School 2020 in Würzburg, Germany

We are pleased to announce the 7th intensive International WinterSchool2020:

International and Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning

This is an exciting opportunity for DCU PG students to work intensively together with Doctoral and Masters students from other European countries and beyond.

The Winter School will run in February 2020 at the University of Würzburg, Germany.


INTALL third meeting, 21-22 October 2019

EAEA Offices, Brussels, Belgium

In October 2019, the third INTALL project meeting took place in the offices if the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) in Brussels, Belgium https://eaea.org/. HERC was represented by Tanya Zubrzycki. The Agenda involved discussion of ongoing deliverables, as well as the preparation for the 7th International Winter School 2020 taking place in February 2020 in the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. DCU input involved presentation of ongoing work on Guide on building ePortfolios (Teacher's version on how to support students, and student's version). HERC would like to acknowledge the helpful contribution on ePortfolios made by Lisa Donaldson, Learning Technologist, Teaching Enhancement Unit at Dublin City University.

DCU also contributed to the guide on international publication opportunities for students in adult education and learning field. The Guide on ePortfolios and International Publication opportunities will be made available on INTALL project website in open access: https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/intall/home/.



Successful outcomes of the Winter School 2020 for International and Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning, 3-14 February 2020

As part of INTALL project, Dr. Trudy Corrigan (FETRC, School of Policy and Practice, Institute of Education, DCU) and Tanya Zubrzycki (HERC, DCU) participated in the Winter School 2020 for International and Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning. Dr. Corrigan and Ms. Zubrzycki were engaged in a Comparative Group on 'Professionalization of Adult Education and Lifelong Learning: A Transnational Perspective'. This included Masters and Doctoral students and Practitioners from a number of countries including Turkey, Nigeria, India, Columbia, Slovenia, Denmark and South Africa.

Seventh Winter School comprised over a hundred of students from all over the word, who joined in the discussions of the professionalization of adult education and lifelong learning in a global context. Master students attending the Winter School focused on questions of international policies in adult education and lifelong learning. They were learning to work with a policy analysis perspective. The analysis was focused on specialised competences for developing new knowledge and innovation by integrating different perspectives. Doctoral students focused on theories in adult education and lifelong learning. They were developing a theoretical-analytical perspective on specialised theoretical knowledge, to be able to synthesize different perspectives systematically and theoretically.

With both perspectives, participants gained insights into the field of practice in adult education (field visits at adult education centres in and around Würzburg, presentations by associations/international organisations in adult education). These insights served as case studies for practicing the analytical models.


Photo on the left: Dr. Trudy Corrigan (FETRC, School of Policy and Practice, Institute of Education, DCU) and Tanya Zubrzycki (HERC, DCU) attending the 7th Winter School in Wuerzburg, Germany.

Photo on the right: photo from one of the previous Winter Schools in Wuerzburg, Germany (taken from INTALL website)



Publication of a guide on Creating and Using ePortfolios, for students in adult learning field

HERC is proud to announce the publication of a guide on Creating and Using ePortfolios for students, authored by HERC Director Professor Maria Slowey and Tanya Zubrzycki, on INTALL website. The guide represents one of the outputs of INTALL project HERC was responsible for. It is aimed at supporting and enhancing the learning, employment prospects and career management of students in adult education field.

The guide comprises the following sections:

1. What is a Portfolio?

2. Steps towards egenrating an ePortfolio

3. Possible sections of an ePortfolio

4. Sharing and networking with ePortfolios (groups, potential employers, etc.)

Full version of the guide can be found at the following link: https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/intall/working-in-adult-education/creating-and-using-eportfolios/

We would like to acknowledge the helpful contribution on ePortfolios made by Lisa Donaldson, Learning Technologist at Teaching Enhancement Unit, Dublin City University, Ireland.



Introducing the 'Working in Adult Education' section of INTALL project website

Among the different project goals, INTALL is aimed at supporting students in the adult education and lifelong learning field in their learning, employment prospects and career management. HERC is delighted to introduce a dedicated section of INTALL website focused on 'Working in Adult Education' field, found at the following link: 


Various parts of this section contain resources on job profiles of adult educators compiled by INTALL partners, employment stories as part of INTALL, skills of adult educators, creating and using ePortfolios, as well as applying for jobs in adult aducation.




INTALL@home online workshop on Sep. 16th 2020

HERC is delighted to announce an online seminar "INTALL@home" relating to a distance learning element in the field of adult learning and education, held as part of the INTALL project.

This half-day seminar may be of interest to academics, professionals and postgraduate (Master's and doctoral) students working in the field of lifelong learning. Organized by Helmut Schmidt-University Hamburg, it will introduce the opportunities in distance learning in the field of adult education and lifelong learning. Full programme can be found at this link, for free registration please visit https://www.hsu-hh.de/wb/en/research/intall-project

The seminar will take place via Zoom on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 from 8:00 - 12:30 Dublin time, room open from 7:30am (please note, the Programme shows local time GMT+2 for Hamburg, Germany, 9:00 - 13:30). Once registered, you will receive an email with the link to the virtual workshop one week before the event.

The seminar will include a roundtable discussion on the topic of ‘Beyond the use of digital as ‘new normal’ in Adult Learning and Education: challenges and limitations’ with contributors from a number of countries:

Prof. Dr. Katarina Popović (Associate Professor, General Secretary of ICAE; University of Belgrade, Serbia)

Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Jean-Francois (Associate Professor and Coordinator Comparative and International Educational Leadership (CIEL); Ohio University, USA)

Dr. Gerhard Bisovsky (General Secretary Verband Österreichischer Volkshochschulen, Austria)

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Heribert Hinzen (former Director of dvv international, Germany)

We are looking forward to your participation!



Publication of a Didactical guide on employability

HERC is proud to announce the publication of

Didactical guide on employability - A Guide for Teachers to support Master’s and PhD students preparing for successful future work in the field of Adult learning and Education

by Pressing House Pacini Editore. The didactical guide has been edited by Prof. Vanna Boffo and Dr. Nicoletta Tomei and has contributions from Prof. Vanna Boffo, Dr. Nicoletta Tomei, Prof. Paula Guimarães, Prof. Natália Alves, Prof. Maria Slowey and Tanya Zubrzycki.

A link to the Guide can be found on INTALL website

Didactical Guide on Employability



Re-thinkng Adult Education Research: Beyond the Pandemic. Towards the INTALL project results.

Invitation to the event hosted by the University of Florence on 7-8 June, 2021 with contribution from Professor Maria Slowey, DCU. Further details about the event and speakers can be found in a pdf download here.

intall event


HERC report: Living longer, learning longer - working longer? Implications for new workforce dynamics.    

Recent HERC Report: Living longer, learning longer – working longer? Implications for new workforce dynamics.

By Maria Slowey and Tanya Zubrzycki

With current demographic trends and ageing populations representing a major societal challenge for Ireland, a recent report by Higher Education Research Centre, DCU explores the implications of longer working lives from the perspectives of key stakeholders: employers, individuals and public policy (Read more).

Download report here (4.8 MB)

Media coverage:

Listen to Prof. Daire Keogh, Deputy President of DCU, speaking about the report on RTÉ Drivetime on February 4, 2019:      https://player.fm/series/series-2292874/ageing-workforce

Read an article about the report in The Irish Times from February 4, 2019 at the following link: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/employers-must-make-workplaces-more-age-friendly-for-over-65s-1.3780854

Read and article about the report in Independent from February 5, 2019 at the following link: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/longer-working-lives-can-bring-big-benefits-to-employers-who-adapt-report-37783142.html

Read a News Release about the report in DCU News from February 4, 2019 at the following link: https://www.dcu.ie/news/news/2019/Feb/DCU-report-highlights-need-for-more-age-friendly-policies-and-practices.shtml

Read a News Release about the report in DublinTimes.ie from February 18, 2019 https://dublintimes.ie/education/david/dcu-report-highlights-need-for-more-age-friendly-policies-and-practices/

Listen to an interview with Tanya Zubrzycki, report co-author, on NearFM 90.3 Lifeline from February 18, 2019: http://nearfm.ie/podcast/?p=30512

Read an interview wth Tanya Zubrzycki, report co-author, in Senior Times from May 2, 2019: https://seniortimes.ie/qa-with-tanya-zubrzycki-co-writer-of-new-report-on-working-longer-from-dcu/

UNIBILITY: Universities meet Social Responsibility                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Unibility Logo UNIBILITY Guidelines launched in Barcelona


The final output of the UNIBILITY project, Guidelines for Universities Engaging in Social Responsibility, were launched by Prof. Maria Slowey and Dr Mark Wallace of HERC at the 1st EU-USR Conference in the University of Barcelona on the 22nd of September 2017.

The 1st EU-USR Conference was organized by the UNIBILITY consortium as a final multiplier event for the project, and, as well as launching the Guidelines, also featured keynote addresses from Josep Vilalta of the GUNi network and Bernie Quilligan and Rhonda Wynne of Ireland’s Campus Engage network, among others. The event saw the participation of about 80 people from across Europe and the world.

The Guidelines were written by staff members from the UNIBILITY partner universities in Austria, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain and edited by Mark Wallace of HERC and Katharina Resch of the University of Vienna.

In the Introduction to the document, the relevance of USR within the current context is dealt with, and some background to the term is given. Thereafter, the Guidelines are divided into four principal sections:

  • Key principles of the USR process
  • Training key staff members
  • Reaching out to relevant stakeholders
  • Involving students in USR

Each of these sections deals with an important stakeholder in the USR process: management; teaching and research staff; business and NGOs; and students, respectively. The sections are short and are designed for accessibility to all interested parties.

The Guidelines have been disseminated to relevant university staff, students, policy makers and community groups across Europe, and are freely available in PDF format on the UNIBILITY project website.




HERC is a partner of a new Erasmus+ project entitled UNIBILITY: Universities meet Social Responsibility (USR). The kick-off meeting was held in Vienna by the coordinating partner, the Postgraduate Center of the University of Vienna from October 15-16 2015. The consortium also includes the University of Porto, the University of Barcelona, the University of Ptuj, EUCEN and the Polytechnic University of Bucharest.

The UNIBILITY-project aims at strengthening the relationships of universities with their local communities through USR-activities. Specifically the project will develop strategies that will allow universities to increase their social responsibility actively at both student and researcher level, it will develop and implement USR service learning projects impacting the local community in the area of environmental, social or economic research, and will develop a USR-Curriculum and train university management and students with it. Furthermore, learning networks between universities and local business partners will be created.

The UNIBILITY project will produce different intellectual outputs (IO) in four phases:

  • STOCKTAKING PHASE: a reader on USR as a training material will be produced as well as an interactive USR Toolkit with collected ideas on how to actively connect universities with their local communities.
  • TRAINING PHASE: In the training phase university management and students are trained in USR, using the developed training material (curriculum and material).
  • IMPLEMENTATION PHASE: Project partners, students and researchers will actively implement USR activities to benefit the local communities based on the provided training.
  • ROLL-OUT PHASE: A guideline for USR is written, which is disseminated at an international multiplier event in Spain.

 HERC will lead on the development of the Guideline (IO8), which will result in a practical guideline that will provide universities with a template of how to create a process of successful engagement in the local community. The duration of the project is 2 years: October 2015 – September 2017

Unibility Vienna Meeting

NEWS UPDATE September, 2016

Scout Mitchell, Final year DCU student, Multimedia: This summer along with 3 other DCU students I participated in the UNIBILITY (Universities and Social Responsibility) summer school in the University of Barcelona, Spain from July 18-22, 2016. UNIBILITY is an EU Project involving the Higher Education Research Centre (HERC), DCU. The summer school was a truly rewarding and enriching experience that provided me with immense knowledge and inspiration in the field of University Social Responsibility (USR). I found it very insightful to learn what kind of service learning projects and research other universities were engaged with in different countries. It was very useful for our DCU team to compare some of these insights to our own practices with the intention of improving our own social responsibility as a university. This year we aim to promote civic engagement through various activities with the DCU Raising & Giving Society DCU in the Community.

USR: Toolkit of Practices

The Toolkit of USR (University Social Responsibility) practices is the second important project output and focuses on good practices covering social responsibility and interactions between the university and its local environment. The toolkit contains 21 examples of implemented USR-practices. The Toolkit offers university managers, key researchers, marketing departments, students, counsellors and others a practical insight into possible, successful and proven USR-practice examples to stir their imagination and the transfer of practices to other countries and universities throughout Europe. The Toolkit is available in EN, DE, SI, RO, PT, ES and can be downloaded from the UNIBILITY project website.

Unibility Newsletters
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Newsletter #4
Launch of Engaged Research Report

The launch of the report into Engaged Research: Society & Higher Education took place on Friday, January 13, 2017. The report was produced by Campus Engage (a network led by the 7 Irish universities and Dublin Institute of Technology) with funding from the Irish Research CouncilEngaged Research is a response to the European Commission’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, which has signalled a shift from ‘pure’ research to research and innovation, requiring academic researchers to consider explicitly the implications of their research with regard to societal challenges and issues of public concern. Thus, engagement between third-level researchers and community stakeholders is of growing importance.

The Engaged Research report finds that a great deal of research undertaken with community partners rather than for them – that is, engaged research – is already taking place in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). However, such research remains uncoordinated and lacks a strategic underpinning. In order to develop a more coherent nationwide approach to the promotion of engaged research, the report offers three sets of recommendations: one set for HEIs; one set for policy-making bodies; and one for funding bodies. For HEIs, it is suggested that specific training be provided on good practice for engaged research (to be developed in partnership with civic and civil society partners); that dedicated staff be assigned to institution-community partnerships; that local communication and information systems be created to link HEIs to capture past and ongoing projects and promote mutual learning; among other recommendations.

Much of what is called for in the Engaged Research report in a specifically Irish context is complementary to a European project involving HERC.  The UNIBILITY project (Universities Meet Social Responsibility) involves  partner universities from Austria, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Romania and Slovenia, as well as eucen (European Continuing Education Network). UNIBILITY aims to promote and develop ‘social responsibility’ activities, including engaged research, among partner universities, and has already provided training sessions aimed at academic and support staff as well as student workshops. UNIBILITY has also developed a toolkit of good practices (available to download at the project website), similar to the “methods toolbox” called for in Engaged Research. The move towards greater research engagement, and the development of a strategic vision informing it, is set to be a feature of the universities of the near future, and Irish HEIs would benefit not only from greater cooperation with each other, but also from increased familiarity with innovative practice internationally.


4th UNIBILITY Partner Meeting hosted by HERC, DCU March 13-14, 2017 

The 4th UNIBILITY  (University meets Social Responsibility) partner meeting was hosted by HERC, DCU on March 13-14, 2017. The primary purposes of the meeting included a planning session for the UNIBILITY conference in Barcelona to take place on 22 September, 2017; and another planning session for the final intellectual output of the project: Guidelines for Universities to Engage in Social Responsibility.

These Guidelines will be presented at the conference in Barcelona and will outline the benefits outside and inside the university of a USR approach. They will also provide practical guidance for universities in involving staff, students and management in the USR process.

Photo, l-r: Mark Wallace, Dublin City University; Isabel Vidal, University of Barcelona; Dario Unterdorfer, University of Vienna; Jordi Miret, University of Barcelona; Katharina Resch, University of Vienna; Gabriel Dima, Politechnic University of Bucharest; Petja Janžekovič, University of Ptuj; Mojca Volk, University of Ptuj; Alina Borcos, Politechnic University of Bucharest; Isabel Gomes, University of Porto; Jenny Gilbert, EUCEN.

Project iTell (Inclusive Technology for Lifelong Learning)

iTell Logo

HERC researcher Dr Emma Murphy has been awarded an IRC postdoctoral research fellowship in the area of older adults, technology and learning. Her research investigates the potential of multimodal interaction design to enhance the experiences of older adult learners in higher education.

Older adult participation in formal and informal learning in the higher education sector is rapidly increasing due to an ageing population (Cruce & Hillman, 2012). Sensory, physical, cognitive impairments associated with the ageing process may hinder initial involvement as current higher education learning infrastructures are designed for a younger student population. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for understanding how to create curricula and resources that meet the needs of all learners from the start rather than retrofitting accessible solutions (Rose and Meyer, 2002).

Building on a UDL principle of multiple representation through different modalities this project will explore ways that multimodal interaction design can extend this notion of flexibility in UDL and support older adult learners.  Through a field study using contextual inquiry with older adult learners, this research aims to firstly explore the modalities that older adults are currently processing information in a lecture setting with a view to identifying both barriers and positive learning strategies. The results of this field study will inform the design of a multimodal tool with visual, auditory and tactile feedback which will be evaluated with older adult learners.

COMMIT: Committing to the Social Dimension in Universities 

Commencing October 2013 and running until May 2016, HERC is the Irish partner on the COMMIT project which is funded with support from the European Commission and co-ordinated by EUCEN (the European Universities Continuing Education Network), COMMIT builds upon the work of ALLUME (A Lifelong Learning University Model for Europe), which developed three self evaluation tools to help universities review their internal strategy for the implementation of a comprehensive and coherent approach to LifelongLearning.

COMMIT will:
- review, refine and adapt ALLUME’s three tools, adding new features to take on board a wider and clearer idea of the social dimension of Higher Education (HE)
- design and develop a new tool for monitoring attainment in HE and integrate these tools in HEIs management systems
- design and undertake a training event with input from external experts
- use the tools in 12 universities in 12 different countries to conduct a self evaluation
- undertake a transversal analysis of the reports from the use of the tools
- run 12 national active learning workshops, with groups of other universities and representatives from the relevant ministry
- run a European event with an active learning approach
- invited associate partners to host a visit from one of the experienced partners in their events.

In addition to HERC, the project involves colleagues from universities in 11 other countries: Université catholique de Louvain (BE); Turun yliopisto (FI); Université de Bretagne Occidentale Brest (FR); Universidade de Aveiro (PT); Universität Stuttgart (DE); Bogaziçi Üniversitesi (TR); Università degli Studi di Genova (IT); Panepistimio Ioanninon (GR); Universitatea Tehnica "Gheorghe Asachi" din Iasi (RO); Universitat Rovira i Virgili (ES); Pécsi Tudományegyetem (H).

Peer-Learning Visits: As of April 2015, the academic partners have completed their twelve peer learning visits meaning the project is now ready to enter a new phase of work. As external observer, EUCEN has attended two of the visits to monitor and report on their operation. Drawing on principles of collaborative and collective learning, the peer-learning visits have allowed partners to share views on the integration of the social dimension into university strategy. In particular, partners have had the chance to analyse and discuss the four self-evaluation tools:

  • The Strategy process Tool

  • The Strategy content Tool

  • The Charter Tool

  • The Attainment Tool

These wide-ranging visits have transformed the COMMIT process into an organisational learning experience for the people and the institution involved. As a result, the project partners have observed an enhancement of their institutions’ commitment to change towards a stronger engagement with lifelong learning strategies and the social dimension of universities. At the end of each visit, visitor and visited partners produced comprehensive reports on the visit, summarizing the discussions held and including recommendations on the use of the tools. These reports, along with the tools completed by each partner, will be the basis for the transversal analysis which is due to be finished by October 2015. The analysis will include an examination of the first three tools as well as a feasibility study on the fourth tool, in view of its wider use at national and European level.  

Two extra visits were undertaken at the end of the project in two additional countries where COMMIT has no partners (Austria and Poland). This contributed to further valorisation of the tools and results of the project. An executive summary, a policy paper including recommendations, and a technical report covering the methodology and results of the data collection and analysis will be written and published.

The COMMIT project started in October 2013 and is now coming to an end! These two intense years of work have produced several project outcomes, recently presented and disseminated at the two valorisation events held in Louvain la-Neuve (May 2016) and Dublin (June 2016). In this latest and final newsletter issue, you can read more about the project achievements and find out how to access and take advantage of the Tools developed by the COMMIT partners to help you monitor and improve your university's commitment to the social dimension.

To find out more, see the COMMIT website for details.

ESRALE: European Studies and Research in Adult Learning and Education

Commencing October 2013, HERC is the Irish partner on the European Study and Research in Adult Learning and Education (ESRALE) project which involves partner universities from nine other countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia and Spain.  This project aimed to coordinate and develop European research in adult education in a systematic way and will also impact on formal qualifications, including the development of a PhD-programme (EQF-level 8). ESRALE built on an existing study program within the EMAE (European Master in Adult Education) project and the experiences gained there. Supported by the EC Lifelong Learning Programme, ESRALE is coordinated by the Distance Independent Study Centre (DISC),Technical University of Kaiserslautern with formative evaluation undertaken by the German Institute for Adult Education.

At a consortium meeting in September 2014, there was a review of progress and work packages:

  • EMAE Curriculum: A Common Core Curriculum was agreed for the EMAE study programme. In addition, at least one university will develop a joint programme with multiple degrees. The University of Kaiserslautern is devising modules that will later be accredited as a masters and existing German language modules are being translated in English.

  • Doctorate Programme and Summer Camps: Initial feedback from the Summer Academy was positive but further development is required to develop more transparency for participants and a longer period for the preparation of each student. The sustainability of the summer academy and PhD funding was also discussed.

  • To support dissemination and exploitation, it was proposed that two advisory groups be established: one at the local/national level and an independent advisory group which will promote the sustainability of ESRALE after the formal project ends.

The following Leaflet (523KB) provides a short summary of the Interactive Transfer Guide (ITG) developed as an expert resource signposting where to find the full details of outputs and lessons learned from the ESRALE project.

Opening Higher Education to Adults

HERC is the Irish partner in an EC funded project entitled “Opening Higher Education to Adults” (HEAD). The project is led by a core team responsible for the implementation of the study - the German Institute for Adult Education: Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning and the Department Higher Education Research at the Institute for Educational Science, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

The project “Opening Higher Education to Adults” aims at comprehensive study on the factors impacting on the participation of adults in higher education and on the flexible delivery of higher education programmes and learning provisions for adult learners. In more detail this project will:

•   map the important factors that facilitate or inhibit the participation of adults in HE,
•   describe models from higher education institutions (HEIs) in European countries which are engaged in adult education, 
•   identify the types of flexible learning, including open and distance learning which are conducive for good adult learner performance,
•   provide country reports and examples of good practice, from selected 20 European and 5 non-European countries.

The overall objective of this project is to derive conclusions and recommendations for action to be taken at European, national and regional level to open higher education to adults.

HERC is responsible for 2 country studies (Ireland and the UK) and also one additional case study from Russia as a non-EU member exploring good practice examples of opening higher education to adults.  The broad themes of the country studies will include the background research on the:

•  definitions of ‘adults’ in HE and specification of target group of adult learners in HE,
•  regulatory issues and policies at national, regional and institutional level (e.g. access and admission to HE, funding of HEIs, student grants/loans),
•  barriers for opening HE to adults (historical and contextual), 
•  drivers for the enhancement of adult learners in HE (eg. labour market policy, educational policy, demographic change)

Professor Maria Slowey, the Director of HERC, is also a member of the advisory board of the study. The advisory board supports the core team of the project and assures the quality of project outcomes. Its responsibilities include giving advice and feedback on the research instruments, the data analysis, and the draft of the interim and final reports.  

The preliminary findings were presented at a Workshop in Bonn in December 2012 and the final report is due to be completed in Spring 2013.

Digital Inclusion and Higher Education


Digital Inclusion LogoStudent using a screenreader

As part of the consultation process and development of the proposed new National Academy for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, HERC was funded to complete a report on the topic of Digital Inclusion and Higher Education. The objective of this initiative was to provide an overview of national and international policy and practice in relation to thematic areas relevant to the new National Academy for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.

This report on Digital Inclusion for Higher Education is an exploration of current policy and best practice solutions in the area of digital inclusion for students with disabilities in higher education. Despite legislation (Universities Act 1997; Disability Act 2005) and policy guidelines (National Access Plan 2008-2013; AHEAD, 2011) to ensure that learning environments in higher education are accessible to all, students with disabilities still face significant barriers in accessing digital learning material. The flexible, interactive and collaborative features that define digital learning resources hold great potential for students with disabilities who can be otherwise excluded from learning activities due to physical and social barriers. However, if the interfaces (such as websites, software, devices, virtual learning platforms) and formats (i.e. pdf, powerpoint presentations, video, audio), currently used for teaching and learning, are not designed with a knowledge of inclusive design, students with disabilities will be further excluded. Current levels of accessibility for the use of digital technologies vary dramatically across institutions, departments and individual modules in Irish higher education institutions. This variability illustrates a need to create resources for staff as part of professional development training on how to create digital learning resources that are inclusive. The report recommends that in order for this to become a reality, there needs to be a shift in higher education policy in Ireland from practices of retrofitting accessibility, to more holistic and inclusive approaches. For more information on this report please contact emma.murphy at dcu.ie

Learning over the Lifecourse: The Experiences of Mature Students

Working closely with relevant units in DCU, HERC is leading a short-term project exploring mature students’ experiences and outcomes in DCU. It is intended that the project will directly contribute to the enhancement of the experiences of mature students in the future by providing information on current barriers and also by identifying areas of good practice.

Increasing the proportion of mature students in higher education is one of the priorities of the National Access Plan (2008-2013). DCU has a long-standing commitment to widening access – mature students enter programmes in all Faculties through a variety of routes. While they are widely recognised as constituting a valuable part of our student community little is known about who they are, what their patterns of participation are across the university, and, importantly, what factors appear to shape successful outcomes. This project is supported by the DCU Quality Improvement and Development (QuID) Fund.

The Voice of Irish Academics: Towards a Professional Development Strategy

This study of academic staff was conducted under the auspices of the Enhancement of Learning Strand (EoL) of the Dublin Region Higher Education Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA) with support from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) of the Higher Education Authority. The DRHEA comprises eight higher education institutions in the Dublin City Region (TCDUCDDCUNUIMDITIADTITB and ITT Dublin).Over 800 academic staff participated in the survey, making it the largest inter-institutional study conducted to date in Ireland. The survey explores the experiences and professional development interests of academic staff across universities and institutes of technology in the DRHEA. Preliminary results from this study revealed that academic staff hold a strong interest in innovation, use of new technology, alternative assessment methods, obtaining/giving feedback from/to students and integration of research into teaching. While academic staff reported high levels of recent (within the last 3 years) participation in professional development related to teaching and learning, over two-thirds of respondents indicated that their workload often hinders their ability to participate in staff development. 

The outcomes of the survey are being widely disseminated through relevant DRHEA fora including the Dublin Centre for Academic Development, the Enhancement of Learning Strand Committee, the DRHEA Management Group and DRHEA Board.  The full report is available here on a Creative Commons basis in PDF version. 

 Process Study on the Development of DRHEA

This qualitative study involves interviews with key players involved with the establishment and development of the Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA). Initial findings have been back into the Board and Management Group with a view to informing future developments.

Global Perspectives on Higher Education and Lifelong Learners

This study is coordinated jointly by Director of HERC, Professor Maria Slowey and Professor Hans G.Schuetze, Emeritus, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. It builds cumulatively on work which emerged from an OECD project on Adults in Higher Education. Leading researchers from Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and two BRIC countries (Brazil and South Africa) have been commissioned to analyse policy developments in higher education and lifelong learning.

Countries and contributors:

Austria:  Professor Hans Pechar (University of Klagenfurt) and Dr Angela Wroblewski (University of Klagenfurt)

Germany: Professor Andrä Wolter (Humboldt University)

Ireland: Professor Maria Slowey (Dublin City University)

Portugal: Professor Alberto Amaral (University of Porto) and Dr Madalena Fonseca (University of Porto)

Sweden: Professor Agnieszka Bron (Stockholm University) and Dr Camilla Thunborg (Stockholm University)

United Kingdom: Professor Mike Osborne (University of Glasgow) and Dr Muir Houston (University of Glasgow)

Canada: Professor Hans G Schuetze (University of British Columbia )

Mexico: Professor Germán Álvarez-Mendiola (Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico)

  • USA: Professor Carol E. Kasworm (North Carolina State University)

Australia: Professor David Beckett and Dr Harsh Suri (University of Melbourne)

Japan: Professor Shinichi Yamamoto (Emeritus Hiroshima University)

New Zealand: Professor Brian Findsen (University of Waiketo)

South Africa: Professor Shirley Walters (University of Western Cape)

Brazil: Dr Ana Canen (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)

This results of this work were published by Routledge (June 2012) in the US and UK. The book was launched on Monday 9 July 2012 in the State Rooms of Dublin Castle, by Minister of Education and Skills, Mr Ruairi Quinn TD.