Why—Trinity College is at the forefront of change in the provision of an education programme for people with intellectual disabilities in a third-level setting (O’Brien et al. 2008). In keeping with the NIID vision of inclusion through education, research and advocacy, the Certificate in Contemporary Living was developed with a view to sharing its potential with other third-level institutions throughout Ireland. The Management Committee of the NIID never envisaged the Certificate as solely a Trinity programme, but as one that would be transferable to other third-level institutions. This is well expressed by Professor PJ Drudy, Chair of the Management Committee:
All students with intellectual disabilities should have a right to lifelong learning and as a result the NIID wishes to work with other third-level institutions to ensure the delivery of the CCL course throughout the entire country. Since the introduction of the Certificate in Contemporary Living at Trinity in 2005, it has proved to be very much in demand. On average the NIID takes three to four enquiries a week on behalf of potential students from family members, schools, and service providers. The time is now right to share and transfer the model with and to other third-level settings so that the needs of students with intellectual disabilities to have opportunities for lifelong learning can be met throughout Ireland. Recognising this, the Higher Education Authority (through its Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)) has funded the rollout of the CCL course nationwide. As part of this strategy the NIID has committed to provide third-level institutions with course content, training and support in the introduction and delivery of the CCL programme.
Where—To date the NIID is delighted to be in partnership with both University College Cork (UCC) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) for a twelve-week pilot of the CCL course. Interest in rolling out the course has also been expressed by Athlone IT, NUI Maynooth, Sligo IT, NUI Galway, University of Limerick, and Mary Immaculate College. Students from the CCL course at TCD have been active in promoting the course by visiting other third-level institutions. They believe that other students with intellectual disabilities throughout Ireland should have the opportunity to study at the third level:
Roll it out in every college all over the country. It’s such a good course. It means people with disabilities can get more education. (Jack Shanahan, 2nd Year CCL Student)
Get more people with disabilities doing the course instead of sitting at home. It moves you towards a career and getting a job. (Brian Higgins, 2nd Year CCL Student)
It’s fantastic. The course should be everywhere. Some kids when they turn 18 they have nowhere to go and the course will give them the confidence to live independent lives, travel and live on their own. The CCL has to be all over Ireland. (Aine Lawlor, 2nd Year CCL Student)
What the future holds—Post-secondary education provides the opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities to not only learn academic and practical knowledge, but to learn more about themselves and their place in the world. Just as importantly, further education offers the context that can forge the social connections and friendships necessary to compete in the world of work and build lifelong meaningful social networks. However, at present students with intellectual disabilities are not provided for within the CAO system, which means that there is not recurrent funding for such courses as the CCL within the third-level system. Therefore an overall aim of the rollout of the CCL course is to generate a critical mass of third-level institutions across Ireland demonstrating its viability for government funding. If students with intellectual disabilities did progress into higher educative opportunities their traditional pathway of becoming a service recipients straight from school would change to that of third-level students, similar to their same-aged non-disabled peers. It is not ‘lack of ability, but rather the consequence of attitudinal and environmental barriers, both within higher education and external to it, which preclude and diminish the possibility of students participating within that process’ (Department of Education and Science (DES), 2001, 63).