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New centre to make higher education more accessible

THE Ennis Regional Learning Centre was officially opened by the Mayor of Clare, Tony Mulcahy at a ceremony held in Clare County Museum last Thursday.

Maria Hinfelaar, president of LIT; Seán Conlon from the Clare VEC; Mayor of Clare, Tony Mulcahy and Peadar Cremin, president of the Mary Immaculate College, at the official launch of the Ennis Regional Learning Centre. Photograph by Declan MonaghanEnnis Regional Learning Centre is an initiative of the Shannon Consortium, which opened its doors in March 2009. The Ennis centre has been established to deliver flexible and accessible third-level courses in Clare from the partner institutions, making higher education more accessible for the people of Clare.
It was highlighted at the launch that since January 2009, there have been queries from 431 individuals who have expressed an interest in the centre’s activities.
Of those, 354 have participated in ERLC activities, such as courses, educational guidance and returning to education workshops. It was highlighted that 88% of those who have engaged these services were mature students, over the age of 23, while 280 people participated in ERLC’s returning to learning seminars.
Professor Paul McCutcheon, vice-president academic and registrar, University of Limerick and chair of the Shannon Consortium, opened proceedings and highlighted the collaborative nature of the Shannon Consortium, an educational partnership between the University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology, Tralee.
Professor Peadar Cremin, president of Mary Immaculate College (MIC), which is the leading institution of the initiative also spoke at the event, saying MIC was committed to developing life-long learning systems to open up higher education in the Clare region.
Speaking about a new full-time higher certificate in business computing course offered since September 2009 by Limerick Institute of Technology in Clare, Dr Maria Hinfelaar, president of LIT said that this course was serving additional students to those attending LIT. “It hasn’t cost LIT any students and it shows there was a need here in Clare that we weren’t meeting. So we are delighted to be able to offer a course in business computing to students in Ennis who otherwise might not have had that opportunity,” she said.
The Mayor of Clare, Councillor Tony Mulcahy complimented the work of the Shannon Consortium members in developing the centre and having the vision to bring third-level education closer to those who traditionally do not travel to the existing regional colleges and universities.
He stated, “I am delighted that those involved in the development of the centre are responding to the needs of the local population by providing flexible and local access to higher education. It is interesting to note that the centre outlines its own role as creating visible pathways to higher education for a wide range of students.”
He went on to acknowledge that the qualifications provided by Ennis RLC courses would be in sectors that increasingly require suitable qualified persons. He praised the centre for offering free educational guidance counselling and return to learning workshops for adults interested in higher education.
“By facilitating such information sessions, the centre is actively encouraging greater numbers of people to apply for a third-level course,” he concluded. He then officially opened the ERLC.
For more information on Ennis Regional Learning Centre, contact Anne Griffin at 065 6866844 or call into the centre on the first floor of the Clare County Museum, Arthur’s Row, which is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Course details are also available on www.ennisrlc.ie.


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