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Official Launch for the Shannon Consortium Educational Drop In Centre - The Downtown Centre


A New Home and Official Launch for the Shannon Consortium Educational Drop In Centre - "The Downtown Centre"

The Shannon Consortium Downtown Centre was officially launched in conjunction with the opening of its permanent home at LIT George's Quay in Limerick City.

The Downtown Centre acts as an information, guidance and support centre for adult learners who wish to explore their options in relation to progressing to higher education.  It focuses on providing an accessible and visible conduit to local higher education institutions through the provision of pre-entry supports in a city centre location. The Downtown Centre is a project of the Shannon Consortium, a pioneering, educational partnership between the Shannon region's four main third-level institutions, UL, LIT, MIC and IT Tralee.

The primary services provided by the Downtown Centre have included: the Certificate in General Studies - a jointly delivered and mutually recognised Foundation Programme which prepares participants for direct entry into partner third-level institutions.  It offers an Educational Guidance Service and Return to Learning workshops which are focused on providing adults with the information, and also the confidence, to make decisions about their third-level learning options.

Speaking at the launch Professor Don Barry, UL President said 'Today is a day to celebrate what can be achieved through commitment, hard work and collaboration.  The ability to develop personal self-awareness and even more crucially, self-confidence, is a key element of the learning needs of those returning for a second chance at education, as barriers encountered in the past often have a more profound effect on participants' self-confidence than on their ability. The Downtown Centre offers advice and guidance to participants, which is essential to those who are attempting to re-engage with the education system. UL is delighted that many of the students who have passed through the doors of the Downtown Centre have continued their studies as students of the University of Limerick. To date 26 graduates have progressed to programmes such as the BA in History, Politics and Social Studies, Bachelor of Business Studies, BA in Journalism & New Media, BA in English & History, BA in Languages, Literature and Film Studies, BSc in Manufacturing Systems, BA in Economics & Sociology, BSc in Energy, BA in Politics & Public Administration and the BSc in Industrial Biochemistry."

Established in 2006, the aims of the Shannon Consortium are to co-ordinate and develop specific innovations in the Shannon region, thus achieving a greater impact collectively than that which could be achieved by any individual institution acting alone. One area of focus was to make it easier for students from marginalised and under-represented communities to gain access to higher education and to gain relevant qualifications.  The Downtown Centre was established as one of the projects under this action. 

Speaking at the launch Dr Maria Hinfelaar, President of LIT said "It is heartening to see so many individuals achieve their potential. 18 graduates to date from the Downtown Centre have progressed onto full-time programmes offered by LIT. These programmes include the Higher Certificate in Applied Biology, BSc in Environmental and Chemical Analysis, BA in Applied Social Studies in Social Care, BSc in Drug and Medicinal Product Analysis, Higher Certificate in Business Studies in Office Information Systems, BA in eOffice Administration Systems, BSc in Renewable and Electrical Energy Systems, and Higher Certificate in Business in Business Computing.  The students coming through the Downtown Centre always do well, which is a tribute to the staff here, the academic staff from our institutions who deliver the programme, and of course the dedication and motivation of the students themselves."

It is anticipated that the work of the Downtown Centre, in the future, will focus more on fostering greater collaboration between different educational stakeholders in supporting adults to access third-level education. Offering a choice of relevant progression opportunities to multiple higher education institutions from one single programme demonstrates the practical benefits which can arise from pooling resources and it is anticipated that the delivery model adopted for the Certificate in General Studies will be one which will be used to an even greater extent in the future for access and similar type programmes.

Georges Quay has housed many generations of students over the years, mainly of LIT's School of Art and Design. Newly refurbished, the building is a true reflection of the rich educational landscape of Limerick city and also of the collaboration between educational partners in the region. The facilities available in George's Quay offer the best of both worlds to the Downtown Centre students - state of the art teaching facilities and an open access computer laboratory, in the heart of Limerick City.

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