Media Release 27 Oct 2020: IUA & RTE 5-part documentary series shines a light on seven university students helping to change the face of higher education.

My Uni Life: seven students with a unique journey to a university education

The IUA has partnered with RTÉ to create My Uni Life, a five-part series which follows the lives of seven students at various stages of their university journey. Whether it’s dealing with the challenges of having a disability, the stereotypes associated with socially disadvantaged backgrounds or having the courage to go to university at a later stage in life, these students represent just 7 out of more than 5000 students each year whose desire to succeed at third level education is facilitated and supported by the Access and Disability programmes run by Irish Universities.

Each student comes from a different background, accessing university through a variety of routes, but with determination that is key to the personal difficulties they have faced.

Filmed over the past 12 months, the series provides a unique and authentic insight into the lives of seven students across the country, as they navigate through personal challenges and the current Covid-19 pandemic while trying to grapple with the move to remote learning.

Commenting on the role Irish universities play, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said: “Irish universities play a crucial and growing role in fostering and enabling social inclusion and mobility. The many access routes the universities support are key to building a long-term inclusive society in Ireland. As a result of the work done by the Access and Disability programmes run by Irish Universities the student body is becoming a more and more diverse group. It is incredibly positive to see that in the 2017/18 academic year 15% of entrants were from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, while almost 10% of new entrants had some form of disability and 6.6% were mature students. But, we have much more to do. It is paramount that we do everything possible to support increased access for all students who need it.”

Beginning on Friday November 6th at 7.30pm, the series will run for five weeks across RTÉ One featuring seven different students and their own personal journeys to higher education.

The students are:

Galway girl, Róisín Farragher, a doctoral student from NUI Galway and despite having a difficult childhood she is the first in her family to attend University: “I hope that people watching the documentary will feel motivated. I hope that when they watch it, they see me, but do not pity me. Rather they think about pushing themselves further and challenging themselves. I hope people take every opportunity offered to them and never let a horrible or tough childhood or any other challenges stand in their way. I hope they see that they have a right to everything good that comes to them and so they take those opportunities and be grateful.”

Shaun Fogarty from Tipperary  is studying at the University of Limerick. His life and university experience transformed overnight when he was severely injured in a road traffic accident. Despite a long recovery in hospital and the need for full time care assistance, Shaun was determined to complete his education: “I enjoyed filming the documentary and I feel it allowed me to demonstrate my ability to take part in a wide range of activities. I hope it shows that it’s possible to achieve your goals with hard work and perseverance.”

Chrisdina O’Neill from Charleville is a Professional Masters of Education student at University College Cork. Chrisdina is from the Traveller community and is the first in her family to progress to third-level. “Taking part in the documentary has meant a lot to me as it was initially a very daunting prospect but after considering it, I then knew that it would be for the betterment of the Traveller community. Getting to share my experience of university was so important to break down the barriers and stigma around university within marginalized communities.”

Alpha Ike is a Computer Science Student at Maynooth University. Born in Nigeria and in Ireland since he was 8 and living in Cavan, Alpha entered university through the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR Scheme). “I think that an interesting aspect of the documentary is the way it transitioned from being about college life to capturing a piece of history for people involved. I was a different person at the start of the process in a very different world and I appreciated being part of the story of how people coped in this new world.”

Cathal Blake from Mornington, Co Meath spent 30 years in construction before going to DCU as a Mature Student. He’s now doing a PhD in focusing on Young Onset Dementia . “Participation in the documentary has been a fantastic experience. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on my academic career and life to date and helped me focus on my future. I have also gained an insight into the work that goes into documentary/TV making. I hope that my input will show others from a similar background to me, that no matter what you did previously, or what age you are, attending university and doing really well both personally and academically is a realistically achievable goal.”

Courtney McGrath from Cavan is a Business and Sociology student at Trinity College Dublin. Profoundly deaf, Courtney entered TCD through the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE Scheme). “From participating in the documentary, I have grown to be more confident and started to believe in myself. I hope that people with disabilities watch the documentary and realise they are capable of achieving anything. I believe in you.”

Dubliner Adam Freegrove is a Medical Student at University College Dublin. Adam entered university through the HEAR Scheme. A carer for his disabled mother, Adam felt compelled to study medicine because of the experience of losing his grandfather to cancer. “The documentary has made me realise exactly how lucky I’ve been to come from where I did. It’s just redoubled my resolve to continue doing what I’m doing and do the best I can and be the best I can be. I want to make my family proud of what they’ve helped me become. More than anything though, I hope that people will take away from it that things can and most likely will be horrible, but it doesn’t mean they always will be. That it is never what you’re dealing with, just how you deal with it. When you feel like you’re losing, the act of not giving up is a victory.”

Ends

For media requests and more information contact:

Lia O’Sullivan Head of Communications IUA 085 7141414 lia.osullivan@iua.ie

 

Additional Information:

More information on the series can be found on www.iua.ie/myunilife

The series is produced by New Decade – http://www.newdecade.ie/

 

In Academic year 2019/20 across the 7 universities….

2340 students entered first year in the 7 universities through the HEAR scheme

1645 students entered first year in the 7 universities through the DARE scheme

1718 mature students entered the 7 universities