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MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at NUI Maynooth

category international | education | press release author Monday March 25, 2013 07:08author by Laurence Cox - NUI Maynooth Report this post to the editors

Another world is possible: learning from each other's struggles

A course for movement practitioners and community educators who want to deepen their own practice

From the Land League to women’s liberation and from the Dublin Lockout to community activism, the struggle for equality and social change has been driven by social movements from below. Today, ecological campaigners have put climate change on the agenda, global justice activists have highlighted the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism and popular movements have changed the world from South Africa to Eastern Europe and from Latin America to the Arab world. As austerity politics bites, cuts target the poorest communities and neo-liberal “business as usual” tries to roll over democracy and popular organisations, social movements are having to rethink their strategies and communities are taking a hard look at their own understandings. What can we learn from each other’s struggles for equality and social justice - and what do we already know about how to change the world?

This course brings together students who want to learn how to make equality and social justice into realities, with more experienced activists in community education and social movements looking for space to reflect on their own work, and a team of staff who are experienced teachers and researchers, community educators and social movement practitioners - to form a community of practitioners learning from each other’s experiences and struggles to create new kinds of “really useful knowledge” and develop alternatives.


How can we bring about social justice and environmental survival? This course enables students to think about how to build real alternatives to challenge existing structures of oppression and injustice. It is about developing ordinary people’s capacity to change the world through community education, grassroots community activism and social movement campaigning. In the face of powerful voices telling us that “there is no alternative” but to trust in their expertise and solutions, this course starts from the view that “another world is already under construction”.

The main force behind positive social change, in Ireland and globally, has always been "people power": those who were not "on the inside", without property, status or power coming together to push for change where it was needed. Community activism, the women's movement, global justice campaigners, self-organising by travellers and new Irish communities, trade unions, GLBTQ campaigning, environmentalism, international solidarity, anti-racism, anti-war activism, survivors of institutional abuse, human rights work, the deaf movement and many other such movements have reshaped our society and put human need on the agenda beside profit and power. This process has not ended.

Movement participants have developed important bodies of knowledge about how to do this, which are fundamental starting-points for trying to make a better world possible. Radical adult and community educators help develop knowledge and learning that are critical and questioning, that are aware of taken-for-granted assumptions, that are systemic, political and social, that ask difficult questions, that are against technical and one-dimensional thinking alone. In the age of Occupy and Shell to Sea, anti-austerity protests and alternative media, social partnership in crisis and global justice, what can we learn from each other’s struggles?


What students say about the course:

“The real beauty of this course is the sense that finally you are not alone in your thinking. Not only can you get to open your mind up to all that has been written, but you get to open up to your class group and really learn from each other. In a world where injustice is the norm, there is a sense that there is a whole world of people out there fighting alongside you and that at last, change just might be possible.”
“There are misunderstandings about the word activism… If you are challenging the system and the way it is, then you are an activist, you are not passively existing in the world, you are taking action…”

“The knowledge and experience of activists are valued.”

“A chance to get really detailed feedback on the way you’re thinking about how to change things.”

“It’s a course for practitioners.”


The Departments of Sociology and Adult & Community Education collaborate on this MA to develop thinking about critical pedagogy in community education; power and praxis in social movements; and understandings of equality, transformation and sustainability. Our commitment to the public use of academic knowledge is a long-standing one and we have a wide range of practical experience as well as research-based knowledge. This includes involvement with social movements, community activism and issue-based campaigning; media work and public debate; active involvement in political parties, trade unions and lobbying groups; community education and literacy; development and human rights work. Maynooth is Ireland's leading centre for research on social movements and one of the few venues in Europe with so much expertise in the area. Our student body is very diverse, with a wealth of different experiences and a strong tradition of involvement in community development and social activism.

The course explores three core strands: Critical and praxis-oriented forms of thinking (e.g. in community education, social theory, media literacy, participatory action research…); Equality and Social Justice (e.g. in feminist praxis, social class, race, political economy, social change...); and Power, politics and praxis (e.g. in social movements, community activism, grassroots organising, environmental justice…) The course content is all taught from the standpoint of "praxis": the understanding that theory without practice is meaningless, while practice without theory is likely to fail. The basis of our work is dialogue between reflective practitioners, systematically including both these aspects.


What students say about the practical benefits:

“Helps to makes links with fellow activists working in different movements.”

“A chance to challenge and enhance your practice.”

“Puts names on things that you have done and helps to frame your ideas.”

“An opportunity to work collectively.”

“Make friends, networks, comrades.”

“An opportunity to challenge academic norms.”

“A chance to be more objective about your practice.”


Course participants

Both Departments have a long history of attracting students who are concerned about social and global justice and keen to draw on their analytical skills to develop a professional life in these areas, including mature students who have already had such an engagement and want to develop their practice further. This programme is aimed at the needs of this very diverse group. This includes those involved in social movements, community development, adult learning, grassroots activism, workers in NGOs and state agencies, and advocates with minority groups.

The course is geared to bringing together the best of practitioner skills in the field with the best of academic research. Our workshops are not traditional classroom experiences but draw on our community, popular and radical educational practice to bring out and work with participants' existing knowledge. We bring our own lived experience into the classroom, and encourage other participants to do the same, creating a conversation between practitioners in which students are not passive learners and teachers are not unquestioned experts. We also bring in a wide range of outside mentors.

The course is aimed at people who already have either basic knowledge of social analysis or experience of social movement organising (or both!) It helps you round out your own skills and understanding across the theory / practice barrier and across different movements, times and contexts. This bigger picture, developing yourself as a reflexive practitioner with a strategic perspective, will enable you to contribute powerfully to social movements, community education projects and activist organisations - or to create new ones.

The programme attracts a wide range of students, with very diverse backgrounds, movements and levels of experience. Participants so far have included working-class community organisers and radical ecologists, radical educators and service user campaigners, feminists and rural community activists, GLBTQ rights campaigners and trade unionists, adult educators and radical artists, young graduates and experienced political organisers.


Students’ experience of the course:

“It’s fun and challenging, constantly changing.”

“Moves beyond/transcends your own organisation or movement. That can help to change your practice as well.”

“Can be fun and interactive and our input feels valued.”

“Challenges your views and perspectives.”

“The lecturers are open to being challenged and to change academic practices.”

“There was a concerted effort towards group development both by the class members and by the lecturers. We were very lucky in our class group dynamic and a willingness for each person to reveal who they really are.”

“The lecturers are deadly too!”



The course involves two days a week on campus (typically Monday and Tuesday) over two twelve-week semesters, along with independent reading and study which you should expect to take another two days equivalent during the rest of the week. Your thesis, which is usually linked to a movement project you are involved in or developing, typically takes three - four months after the end of classes. The programme includes core modules in “Community of praxis”; “Power and politics”; “Radical education and critical pedagogy”, “Equality and social justice” and "Feminist theory and practice". Along with these students choose one elective module a term, such as “The market, the state and social movements”, “Critical media and cultural pedagogy in communities", “Participatory action research in social movement practice”, “Political economy”, “Environmental justice” or “Sustainable communities”.

We run special sessions on topics like “Sustainable organising”; “Critical media literacy”; “Utopias and social movements” and “Digital media production” and invite a wide range of movement speakers to discuss their work. Field trips to date have visited community projects and direct action campaigns, local oral history projects and social centres. Major events have included our “Masked Activists’ Ball” launch, our “Beyond the crisis” seminar, and a conference “New agendas in social movement studies”. Finally, participants take research modules and complete a thesis project. This is geared towards developing your practice in a particular area, helping to contribute to a particular movement, and is often produced in a format which will be accessible and useful to other people in that movement.

Participants will leave the course with a deeper understanding of how the politics of equality and inequality works in a range of substantive areas. They will have developed the skill of practicing "politics from below": active citizenship, civil society, community education and development, social movements and other forms of popular agency. They will have gained skill as a reflexive researcher, developed their writing and presentation skills and completed a practice-based research project. This is embedded within a wider learning community where participants are supported to stay connected after graduation and the course itself builds links with a range of different social movement projects.


Warnings from current students:

“There’s a lot of self-evaluation and self-reflection.”

“Clear your timetable…. Really clear your timetable, take the opportunity to step back from your work.”

“I didn’t realise how much reflection is on the course.”


Contact and admissions

The course website is http://ceesa-ma.blogspot.com. Application is via the online PAC system, at http://www.pac.ie. The course code is MHA64; the deadline for applications is Tuesday April 30th 2013. The minimum requirement is a primary degree (BA etc.) in social science, humanities or adult education at 2:2 level, or the equivalent. For any queries about this process, please contact the Dept. of Sociology, NUI Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland at sociology@nuim.ie or (+353-1) 7083659. Our website includes information on fees, grants and scholarships at http://ceesa-ma.blogspot.no/2013/03/contact-us-how-to-a....html.

Admission is by interview with staff members, and offers of interview are made on the basis of the online application. Your personal statement is particularly important in this, because this is a practitioner course which is geared towards supporting you in developing your own practice.

However, you should not feel that you have to have a particular level of experience in order to be accepted on the course. We accept students at all levels, from school-leavers who had just completed an undergraduate degree to mature students who have been active in movements for decades, and this classroom diversity is part of the richness of the course. Participants learn greatly from each other’s life experiences and organising knowledge, intellectual perspectives and political traditions. The personal statement helps us to gauge how each participant might gain from the course.


A student says:

“The main thing I enjoyed from the course was not what we learnt but how we learned it. For me the mix of people in the class was electric and we all learned so much from each other. In a way I didn’t feel like I was going into ‘college’. This was greatly encouraged from the lecturers who by the way are experts in their fields and are always at hand for guidance, advice and criticism. In a way I even feel awkward calling them lecturers as the whole learning process for me was so far removed from what most are used to in a college setting.

As regards the material, like all reflection and philosophising, one day you could be disillusioned with everything, doubting and questioning everything you ever stood for while the next day you want to take on the world, but what kept it together was the energy and camaraderie and that we were all in it together. I hope courses like this and more importantly the whole critical way of learning together is mirrored in other colleges and institutions. And for those like ourselves who are serious and committed about what we do, there is no time like the present to do this course. I already feel the knowledge I gained and more importantly the network of people I have met will be vital to any campaign or project I will be involved with in the future.”

Related Link: http://ceesa-ma.blogspot.com
author by Laurence Cox - NUI Maynoothpublication date Thu Apr 11, 2013 08:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

CEESA flyer for this year - please print off and circulate.

PDF Document CEESA poster 0.54 Mb

Related Link: http://ceesa-ma.blogspot.com
author by Bobbypublication date Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Academia reproduces academia. I don't trust any university and I abhor the idea of working-class people getting tied up in a hierarchal and bourgeois institution like a university, no mater how many times you put 'social justice' in the description.

Maybe I'm wrong though, maybe this course is designed specifically for middle, or upper-class students? In that case, off ye go, more well paid NGO 'leaders' for Ireland, or new professors!

author by Comyn - Perspectivepublication date Wed Apr 24, 2013 14:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Saddened I read your response because education is a gateway to an improved method of living. You gain financially but more importantly it is the intellectual gain that is so important. Indymedia Ireland is about citizen journalism and conjecture suggests that many people who write about current affairs and global interests on this site have most likely engaged in the back to education programmes that were introduced in the 1990's to engage people from underprivileged communities and also people with disabilities to enter education and gain the education options. Trinity, UCD, UCG, UCC, Maynooth and so many more technical colleges which were upgraded in status have resulted in many people now working in our communities gaining education. We need these people to advance the cause of others and promote education and in particular free education. MNC's came to our shores when the assessed our infrastructure, our banking allegiances to both the UK, and Europe, the English language and most importantly our highly educated workforce. Let us not lose sight of these values. It also would suggest that if a Financial Transaction Tax was introduced by a few %, these employers and potential employers would continue to use Ireland as a strategic base.

Maynooth outline their views. Let them engage and promote back to work schemes in education. On another posting a very important point about FAS/FETAC and education in Ireland was raised by NoMoreAusterity. The need is to identify the WASTE in public service and education and then start streamlining to the needs of the people who are now facing unemployment. Markets are cyclical so let us be aware and prepare now for needs.

NoMoreAusterity quote:

'I am certainly not about removing waste. I've often said that FAS can be entirely replaced by a computer server, some programmers from the dole queue and a bulk deal with the open university to supply proper recognised (!!) courses remotely through peoples' computers (as opposed to the unrecognised fetac shit they dish out which require your physical presence'

Pure common sense.

Too many of these FETAC courses just don't work. There is one to do with Horticulture. You apply and you are accepted. In the example I am aware of there are mental health issues. What happened - started missing days and then just quit. Where is the cost benefit analysis. The person I know is walking the streets now

author by NoMoreAusteritypublication date Thu Apr 25, 2013 14:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bobby is a regular troll on this site.

Now he's trying to promote the idiotic meme that the masses should be suspicious of education and should not better themselves through learning. Any revolutionary will tell you that this is utter bollocks and one of the first steps for the working classes to improve their lot and understand how the system really works the way it does and learn how to fight it or escape the trap they are in is through education.

Revolutionary movements often begin in such places of learning. Many of the most famous revolutionaries in history were learned or were prolific "self learners". Learning, academic and otherwise, goes hand in hand with revolutionary movements.

History especially is important in seeing and understanding the cynical class structure of society, the well worn tactics used to impose it and the well known repeating techniques that we need to anticipate and counter.

People like bobby ( who serve the elites on internet fora ) are happy for the working classes to know their place, stay ignorant, not educate themselves, and remain subservient to the elites and making money for them through their labour.

This sounds like a great course to open the eyes of anyone doing it and equip them with the tools to be leaders in their communities. It's interesting that bobby picks this particular course to attack. There are plenty of less relevant nonsense esoterica / paid courses with no proper standards in the world which are often con jobs. But he picks on one that teaches about social activism in the community.

That's because people like bobby want the working classes to remain ignorant and stay in their place. They don't care about rubbish courses that don't pose a threat to the status quo. Bread and circuses are fine. Real education and learning is a threat.

author by Comyn - Educationpublication date Tue Apr 30, 2013 16:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for clarification.

Education is essential for empowerment and social mobility.

Education at third level in the 1990's reached its heights and became free. Many people for the first time were able to avail of it but now this is challenged with the name Fees changed to another name but the amount approaching £3,000 and going upwards.

It is imperative that the advances made through access to education for people with disabilities, from poor backgrounds, for people who have retired continue to exist. Education is Ireland Inc's stock in trade and it needs to be valued and promoted.

Community Employment became an avenue for back to education. Shame on those who seek to close it down. Yes, make changes and make people more accountable but don't abolish it.


author by Comyn - Life Long Learningpublication date Sat May 04, 2013 15:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The British Museum is linking up with the Open University, 'Futurelearn' which is a consortium of universities that plan to offer courses to the public this summer. We have museums throughout Ireland which are insufficiently attended so here is an opportunity to inspire people to become better education and more involved in their urban communties.

FAS and FETAC courses have been the source of much criticism on this site and an earlier suggestion to replace FAS courses by facilitating people to link up with the Open University now becomes a real common sense idea.

Look out for MOOCS (massive open online courses) - which originated last year in the States. The biggest Platform is Coursera which was established by a group of academics at Stanford University in California and which enrolled more than 2 million students in the first 12 months. edX is founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology already has more than 700,000 students. Solus replaces FAS so please let there be some vision for the potential of people, presently unemployed, to embrace this new route to learning.

Walking past Baggot Street hospital today, I thought the bedraggled lady of two centuries was being attended to at last but No....it is for a film set. Would it not be the right time to make this a medical museum and a place of learning to represent its origins as a teaching hospital? The part of the hospital on Haddington Road is to become the Primary Health Care Centre so this leaves the hospital open to alternatives

author by Blake - Life-long learningpublication date Thu May 09, 2013 16:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Does anyone know or even care if the students did eventually receive the grants they were due, before the exams?

The media revealed that debt collectors were to be found on certain campuses retrieving monies due and that certain education establishments were stopping students from sitting exams, if fees due due to grants not provided, were outstanding. This is bullying of the worst kind surely and yet nobody talks about it which leaves to conclude that maybe those affected have just sneaked away from that option of third level education and are now on our dole queues.

However, it is in our best interests as a Nation to promote education in a variety of spheres from the College, to the University but also the capacity that arises within the workplace. We are told that the academic institutions, the government and the relevant agencies are working on improving the workforce through re-skill and conversion programmes for people on the live register. However, we must not forget the potential contribution that can be made by our private-sector employers particular at this time. We need to tap the capabilities of the German system of education and its focus on skill training which runs either as a forerunner to third level education or in its own right as a promoter of industry. Private enterprise employers have a duty also to identiy "talent" and potential.

According to research commissioned by Accentures
'One third of Irish employers believe that they - and not Government or third level - have primary responsibility for developing their employees' skills.....'

We need to tap this market for the many unemployed young people urgently.

author by Swift - SUSI: Grantspublication date Sat May 11, 2013 15:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is this the answer if the State can't pay?

Read the Independent Friday, if you are interested?

There is a website and people have no difficulties with the trade off's

author by Comyn - Life-Long Learningpublication date Mon May 27, 2013 16:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To those who failed to get the grants or who received them to late, to sit the exams, try again. There is less red tape or so the promise goes. Extra staff and the need for fewer documents to process student grants is the outcome of this academic year SUSI disaster. There are always teething problems when you aim to create a centralised applications system.

author by Comyn - Educationpublication date Wed Jun 19, 2013 16:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'MOOC' Massive Open Online Learning Courses

This is about education in the new dimension - online. The audience is global. The pioneers are those well known elite colleges in the US (Stanford University, Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and others). Now Trinity College Dublin has joined the elites. TCD will 'partner' with Future.Learn.com (founded by the Open University now in existence for 40 years) which is the first UK led multi-institutional provider to offer MOOC courses.

Future.Learn.com to date has 26 'partnerships' mainly in the UK but what is interesting is that TCD along with Monash, Australia's largest university, are the first two 'international collaborations'. Hopefully this will re-establish Trinity College Dublin in the top 100 leading universities especially since Ireland's universities have slipped out of the top 100 list. It is time to reverse the trend and this is the way forward.

About content: This online method of education will also include the British libary, the British museum and other museums to share 'content' and 'expertise' which will enrich the development of courses. MOOC is about accessible and free learning. People will have access to leading world academics and life-long learning becomes the real option for all people and is about access to education for all people including people with disabilities. Carnegie, the self-made philantropist, established the libraries, now this is their opportunity to become centres of free online education and access to all people.

Trinity College Dublin, Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast stated in today's Irish Independent newspaper that "It will widen participation and provide educational opportunities for prospective students and new audiences". It is the way forward to create diversity in unity of education and life-learning impacting on how we live and benefit ourselves and the world.

As Ireland becomes submerged with mass unemployment particularly affecting our young people, it is essential now to promote education as a source of opportunity and to encourage people to pursue every alternative to prevent unemployment resulting in life-long poor health and survival consequences.

Literacy is essential particularly the 3 R's. If you want to access online education you need the basics. There are excellent opportunities to learn and if you feel you are not yet ready for the opportunities that MOOC's will offer, check out NALA and other projects that teach the basics.


author by Comyn - Educationpublication date Tue Jan 07, 2014 16:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Education for those leaving school or for those who have returned to education and prepared for entry, the time is near to complete the CAO applications. Yesterday's Irish Times had most comprehensive details about options, choices, universities and if you are considering returning to College, it well worth getting a copy.

There is an interesting website called www.defendtheuniversity.ie

For those considering further education, an alternative view is worth consideration especially if you are asked to interview by the respective universities.

In fact, Irish Universities are actually in a crisis at present due to the massive under-funding combined with the commercialisation and managerialism.

You are asked on the website above to sign a set of principles 'to support us in defending third level education in Ireland'.

The Charter for Action states valid points that merit attention.

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