‘After the Celtic Tiger’, Irish Social Science Platform Conference
Kenny, Michael and McDonnell, Alice and McCabe, Fintan (2008) ‘After the Celtic Tiger’, Irish Social Science Platform Conference. Dublin City University, Ireland.
The four National University of Ireland Universities have offered a diploma in rural development to adults experienced in, or concerned about rural development since 1996. The diploma initiative arose from a government report on the needs for education and training for the development of rural areas. The universities acted upon the Creedon Report (1993) and offered a 60 credit two-year distance learning diploma in 11 separate themed modules. Over 400 people have completed this diploma since 1996 and have gone on to impact on their local communities, develop careers, develop enterprises, and impact on rural development policy. By 2004 the universities were able to launch a follow on degree. This degree completed by distance learning in two years, (following the diploma), has graduated almost 80 people in the last four years. This paper draws on research completed by two graduates of this degree. These graduates, with support from a summer research programme within NUI Maynooth, sought to qualitatively and quantitatively enumerate the impact of the degree on the professional and non-professional lives of the people who completed this course. Taking a sample the researchers designed and administered questionnaires and convened focus groups. The outcomes show a significant impact of this education. The respondents enumerate the strengths and weaknesses of this type of education for mature students and for rural development education. They also report career progression, community impact, and greater involvement in aspects of development among the graduates. The outcome of this research shows that this type of education has significant impact on personal confidence, competence in developing innovative solutions to need, and a greater capacity to participate. Presently there are significant challenges to development. These challenges are exacerbated in remoter rural areas. They are especially challenging to those who do not have the skills and the knowledge to engage with a post-modern economy. The outcome of this research is important as a contribution to our planning for how we can educate into disadvantaged communities rather than taking the most ambitious people out of their communities for education.
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