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    ‘Voice is the Process’ A Study Exploring the Access Potential of the An Cosán Model of Higher Education

    O'Reilly, Niamh (2020) ‘Voice is the Process’ A Study Exploring the Access Potential of the An Cosán Model of Higher Education. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    An Cosán offers degree programmes through a community education model in West Tallaght, Dublin, an area of socio-economic disadvantage. This study examines the features of this unique model of higher education provision and considers its potential contribution to the access policy debate. National access policy, as encapsulated within three National Access Plans (HEA, 2004a, 2008, 2015), has failed to achieve targets designed to address the persistent under-participation of lower socio-economic groups in higher education. New thinking in access policy is required, as demonstrated within this research which used a deep analysis of access policy to reveal an over-reliance on deficit-based approaches to access, thus opening a space in the policy debate for transformative approaches to access. This research study specifically focuses on two degree programmes which were offered as part of a collaborative partnership between An Cosán and IT Carlow. Merten’s transformative research methodology (2010) influenced primary data collection via four non-sequential phases of fieldwork. The resulting case study of An Cosán serves to articulate distinct characteristics of the An Cosán model of higher education, notably the foregrounding of learners’ experiences. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus helps explain the sense of inclusion that learners felt in this community education context. Additionally, the theoretical underpinnings of An Cosán, informed by Freire, permeated the organisation through its distinct feminist, social justice purpose and through its enactment by tutors in their pedagogical approach. An Cosán’s Freirean-inspired feminist pedagogy enables the unearthing of voices that are typically marginalised and unrepresented in higher education, which supports access and social action, and contributes to shaping the organisational habitus of An Cosán. The malleability of the organisational habitus of An Cosán shaped by the community, staff and through both the physical learning environment and pedagogic process, was positively experienced by learners, thereby enabling access. Although constrained by funding, the An Cosán model of higher education exhibits elements of a transformative approach to access and makes important contributions to supporting educational equality.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Voice is the Process; Access Potential; An Cosán Model; Higher Education;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 18028
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2024 16:39
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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