Different class: Island hosts third-level degree

FORGET UCC, CIT or even Trinity — in what is being hailed as a major education breakthrough, a small island off the West Cork coast is now the venue for a third-level degree.

Sherkin Island, off the coast of Baltimore in West Cork, will become the first island location to host a third-level degree course — being the official location for a full Honours BA Degree Programme in Visual Art.

So far, 14 mature students between the ages of 20 and 80, have signed up for the course which will be taught in the island Community Hall.

Students — from Cape Clear, Heir Island, Sherkin Island and the West Cork mainland along with the seven Dublin Institute of Technology lecturers giving the course — will stay in rented accommodation on the island for lectures and workshops. These will take place in blocks of four to five days at a time and the students will also avail of distance learning via computer from a lecture hall in DIT.

The four-year modular honours degree programme offers a dynamic and creative education in the visual arts and is fully accredited, managed and delivered by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in conjunction with Sherkin Island Development Society and the West Cork Arts centre.

“Up to this, islanders couldn’t get a third-level course without moving to a major urban centre on the mainland. This is a way of providing people who live in isolated areas with a way to get a degree without having to travel to the cities,” said Bernadette Byrnes, chairwoman of the programme.

“This is a big breakthrough in third-level education, to have a third level degree programme running on an island,” said Ms Brynes.

The course, which is being funded by a grant of €250,000 over a four-year-period by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs follows on from a pilot programme which ran between 2000 and 2003. This consisted of a series of accredited short courses developed by the School of Art, Design & Printing at DIT in partnership with the Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) and delivered in the Community Hall on Sherkin. West Cork Arts Centre (WCAC), another partner, collaborated in delivering a series of professional practice workshops for the pilot student participants.

The new arts degree will be launched on the island today by Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon Ó Cuív.

Meanwhile, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann is also holding its annual general meeting on Sherkin today. It is hosting a public seminar on the subject of Third Level Education and the Islands.

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