The Trinity Inclusive Curriculum Initiative (details)

Europe highlighted at the world map Relevance - Aims - Context - Issues and challenges - The implementation process - Key outcomes and lessons learned - Evaluation - Future developments - Further information - Contact details

Example reference number: 034EN

This example is relevant to the following areas of the UNESCO Policy Guidelines:


C3 – Support programmes for youth and adults


I4 – Ensure effective use of resources


J1 – Provide support when needed and make curricula open and flexible, allowing for different learning styles and content that makes the curriculum relevant to learners and society


K3 – Promote the use of new and alternative methods for teaching



The main objective of this initiative is to mainstream inclusive principles within the entire College curricula so as to enable all students, particularly those from non-traditional learning backgrounds, to participate more fully in the academic life of the College.


This involved firstly identifying actual and potential barriers to teaching, learning and assessment, and linking them to enabling strategies. These enabling strategies were then introduced into the mainstream curriculum via:

  • training and awareness raising activities;
  • the introduction of online guidelines and resources to help staff create a more inclusive learning environment;
  • the introduction of an online self-evaluation tool for the design and review of curriculum.


Through this tool and heightened awareness sustainability will be ensured beyond the three year life cycle of this project.



Trinity College Dublin (TCD – University of Dublin) is situated in the centre of Dublin and is the oldest higher education institute in Ireland, founded in 1592. There are approximately 17,000 students registered in the College, with about one third of them studying at post-graduate level.


The College is committed to excellence in both research and teaching, to the enhancement of the learning experience of each of its students and to an inclusive College community with equality of access for all. Widening access has been a priority within TCD over recent years. In 2009/10, 685 (4.1%) students were registered with the TCD Disability Service, 604 (3.6%) with the Trinity Access programme (which supports students from lower socio-economic backgrounds), and 1,270 (7.5%) entered their undergraduate degrees as Mature students .


(see http://www.tcd.ie/CAPSL/TIC/assets/doc/Statistics/Statistics%doc for more details). International students, many of whom come from different educational cultures and have English as a second language, are also well represented in TCD, with approximately 2,300 (13.7%) students from 90 different countries ( http://www.tcd.ie/international/why-trinity/ ).


Issues and challenges

TCD is committed to widening access to all and has successfully increased the numbers of students entering from non-traditional cohorts over recent years. The TCD Access Plan 2009–2013 ( http://www.tcd.ie/Trinity_Access/forms/0910%20FORMS/TCD%20Access%20Plan%202009-2013.pdf ) sets the following institutional targets for 2013:

  • 22% entrance rates according to key access criteria, with
  • 13% new entrance rates by under-represented socio-economic groups,
  • 11% new entrants in Engineering, Mathematics and Science,
  • 10% increase in students with a disability (excluding specific learning difficulties).


However, while TCD put strategies in place to support widening access pre-registration, creating various access routes to cater for diverse student groups (e.g. the Disability Dispensation Scheme, the Mature Students’ Dispensation scheme and the Trinity Access Programmes (TAP)), accessibility within the teaching and learning environment post-registration had been generally overlooked.


A diversified student body leads to diversified student learning needs and while TCD acknowledged the specific needs of various student groups and responded to these needs through the provision of targeted additional supports supplied by specialised support units (e.g. the Disability Service, TAP office, Mature Students’ Office), and ad-hoc, retroactive adjustments, this was deemed inadequate for a variety of reasons:

  • This approach aimed to aid students’ adaptation to the traditional curriculum rather than adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of the modern diverse student population.
  • With the numbers of students registered for reasonable accommodations continuing to increase, the workload and co-ordination necessary to meet these accommodations increases also, so that the system will soon prove unsustainable.
  • This approach failed to cater for those within the university population who, while not being registered with an access programme, had difficulty with traditional curricular approaches (e.g. undiagnosed / undisclosed disabilities, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds entering via traditional routes, students with Ireland / EU residential status but an educational background elsewhere etc.).


In response, Trinity Inclusive Curriculum (TIC) commenced in October 2008. TIC was designed to respond to the needs of the modern student population post-registration by embedding inclusive practices within the mainstream curriculum of TCD to ensure that it is responsive to the needs of all students.


The implementation process

TCD received funding from the Higher Education Authority in Ireland through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF II) for three years. Funding was granted under the title ‘Auditing the Curriculum for Diversity’

Trinity Inclusive Curriculum began in October 2008, and runs for three years. The expected completion date is the end of September 2011. At this point TIC will cease to be a project, and become business as usual. The project has three phases:


Phase 1: Research phase: Oct 08–May 09

Phase 2: Pilot phase: May 09–May 10

Phase 3: Implementation phase: May 10–Oct 11


TIC was conceived in partnership between TCD’s Disability Service and Centre for Academic Practice and Student Learning (CAPSL).


A steering committee was set up to oversee and guide the initiative, and this included representatives from the access programmes (Disability Service, TAP, Mature Students’ Office), CAPSL, the International Office, the academic community and the student body.


It also included a representative from an external higher level institution. In phase III we aim to work further with external higher level institutions.


Key outcomes and lessons learned

TIC is broken into three phases.


Phase 1: Research phase: Oct 08–May 09

  • Review the current context regarding teaching and learning in TCD through the collation of statistics on non-traditional students and the administration of a student survey.
  • Assess the quality and standards of teaching resources against internal and external benchmarks, and enhance inclusiveness by identifying both examples of good practices, and areas for improvement.
  • Establish links with relevant stakeholders both within and outside College, create a TIC identity and to raise publicity concerning TIC.


Phase 2: Pilot phase: May 09–May 10

  • Design and pilot an inclusive curriculum teaching, learning and assessment self-evaluation tool.
  • Design a national resource via a TIC website, incorporating inclusive resources, advice on creating, and the rationale for, inclusive curriculum.
  • Continue to promote Inclusive Curriculum within TCD via contributions to staff training and the dissemination of the results of phase one activities.


Phase 3: Implementation phase: May 10–Oct 11

  • Create an online version of the self-evaluation tool incorporating resources and materials to aid user reflection on and completion of the tool.
  • Embed the use of this tool within TCD procedures and systems (e.g. curriculum design, quality review, awards and promotions) to ensure the continued use of the tool beyond the lifecycle of the TIC project.
  • Strengthen the links between TIC and the other higher education institutions seeking to extend the use of TIC beyond TCD.



An external audit of the project took place as part of a broader audit of All Strategic Innovation Funded projects in Ireland and a report was published in February 2010. Regarding the DRHEA, Enhancement of Learning (of which SIF is a part) the audit recommended ‘These are excellent work-in-progress projects that will contribute essential results to the higher education sector (most are SIF 2 projects). Some are progressing well while others are experiencing some difficulties. Given their importance to the sector, they should be continued (perhaps sectorally or system-wide) and mainstreamed when complete’.


Future developments

We have now created an online version of the self-evaluation tool incorporating resources and materials to aid user reflection on and completion of the tool. This was launched at the beginning of November 2010. We now plan to embed the use of this tool within TCD procedures and systems (e.g. curriculum design, quality review, awards and promotions) to ensure the continued use of the tool beyond the lifecycle of the TIC project.


We also plan to strengthen the links between TIC and the other higher education institutions, seeking to extend the use of TIC beyond TCD. We have contacted some higher education institutions within the Dublin area and requested a pilot within these institutions to consider whether the tool is relevant and useful beyond TCD. Following any necessary amendments we plan to work at raising awareness of TIC resources outside of TCD and to support and guide external institutions in adopting and using the tool.


Further information

The Trinity Inclusive Curriculum (TIC) has a resource website: www.tcd.ie/capsl/TIC


This incorporates guidelines, resources (textual and audio-visual) and templates to aid staff engaged in student teaching and learning to enhance the inclusivity of their practices.


A teaching and learning self-evaluation tool, allowing users to evaluate their teaching and assessment practices for inclusion, is available from this website. This tool is supported by audio-visual materials.


Contact details

Michelle Garvey, Inclusive Curriculum Development Coordinator

E-mail: Include (at) tcd.ie

Tel.: +353 1 896 3666


If you are using any part of the text or materials from this example, please clearly reference the source of this example (www.inclusive-education-in-action.org/034EN), the example reference number (034EN) and the organisation’s details (see contact details above).