Stepping Stones and Stable Roots: The Versatile and Enduring Strength of Community Education

06 March 2023
Who should attend:
Prior booking required:
The Richmond Education and Event Centre

Exploring how community education fits with the new Unified Tertiary Education System 


As part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2023, join us to explore the indispensable role of community education in Ireland, and to debate its relationship to the new Unified Tertiary Education System.  

We’ll bring community education practitioners, facilitators, managers, and adult learners together with policymakers and Government representatives. 

The new Unified Tertiary Education policy from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science seeks to better connect the education sector in Ireland. One of the aims of this new policy is for “a more consolidated approach to inclusion across the whole of the tertiary system to enhance strategies to address socio-economic disadvantage and the underrepresentation of groups.”  

We'll discuss what this means for community education, and the need for widespread recognition of the unique value it can bring. We know that the provision of learning opportunities and experiences in local communities, by local people, forms the quiet and enduring backbone of access to education for many people across the country.  

Learning in local communities is sometimes seen as a “stepping stone” to further and higher education. But it also offers stable roots in a particular place, and a sense of belonging and identity for people, which are essential in times of challenge and change.

We’ll also share the findings from our evidence-based “Lifelong Learning” research project, which focuses on the most marginalised and disadvantaged in our society. 

AONTAS is inviting eight adult education tutors to support the table discussions at this event through note-taking and providing a short input from their practitioner’s perspective. As a token of our appreciation, €70 book vouchers are being offered for this role. If are interested in supporting us, please email

We create our world through our actions. Let’s explore what a truly unified Irish education system might look like.  



9.30am: Registration  



10am: Welcome and Introduction 

John D’Arcy, AONTAS Chairperson


10.10am: Launch of the Lifelong Learning Research Report 

Lauren Swan, AONTAS Head of Research 

Lived Experience - Adult Learners' Interactive Response 

Chaired by Ecem Akarca, AONTAS EU Projects Coordinator


10.45am: Keynote Address: What role does community education have in the new Unified Tertiary Education System? 


11.05am: Key Stakeholder Panel Discussion  

Dáire Keogh, President, Dublin City University (DCU) 

Fiona Maloney, Director, National Tertiary Office   

Melíosa Bracken, Community Education Facilitator, City of Dublin ETB   

Tara Farrell, Chief Executive, Longford Women’s Link   

William Beausang, Assistant Secretary General, DFHERIS   

Chaired by Dearbháil Lawless, CEO at AONTAS 


11.50am: Comfort Break: Tea/Coffee/Pastries

Creating Conditions for Constructive Discourse: Attendees' interactive blended discussion (using Mentimeter)  


12.10pm: Practitioner and Policy Engagement – Roundtable Discussion  

Tutors, staff and policymakers table discussion  


12.45pm: Policy Response 

SOLAS CEO Andrew Brownlee and DFHERIS 


1pm: Close  

Dearbháil Lawless, AONTAS CEO and John D’Arcy, AONTAS Chairperson 


1.15pm: Light lunch provided


This event will take place at the Richmond Centre in Smithfield, Dublin, on the morning of Monday 6th March 2023, with lunch afterwards.

For more information, please contact Barbara Nea, AONTAS Head of Advocacy at  


The AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2023: Create Your World  

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”  




Register for this event

Contact details:
Richmond, 1 Brunswick St N, Smithfield, Dublin, D07 TH76