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Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute (DFEI) – Building Collaboration Between Students and Local Businesses

08. 07. 2021

Principal Eoghan Ó Murchadha.

Dún Laoghaire and South County Dublin are home to some of the finest universities in Europe. With IADT on our doorstep and UCD down the road, there’s no shortage of fresh talent in the local area.

One of the shining stars that doesn’t get as much national attention is Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute, currently helmed by Principal Eoghan Ó Murchadha.

Ó Murchadha is constantly thinking of new ways to deliver even more for students, and DFEI’s latest move to join the steering group of @DigitalDunLaoghaire will provide even more opportunities not only for DFEI students but also for local businesses in town.

“We are there for everyone. We’re there to support people. We’ve got all the structures in place, whether it’s advice regarding social welfare, career guidance, counselling, psychological support skills. Regardless of who you are or where you’ve come from, DFEI is here to help you meet your goals.”

Meeting Community Needs Through Equal Access to Learning

As Principal of DFEI, Ó Murchadha wears many hats, but his most important role is ensuring that DFEI continues to meet the needs of the local community by delivering high quality courses that cater to students from all backgrounds, from school leavers to people returning to education.

For Ó Murchadha, a former teacher with almost twenty years of tenure at DFEI, the role of principal, the need to deliver increasingly valuable courses goes beyond the need to compete with other institutions. It’s about doing what’s best for students and communities.

“The ethos [at DFEI] is that everyone deserves a chance at education. We will always find a way to try to help somebody; we don’t like to leave anyone out. We want to help everyone.”

DFEI’s commitment to access includes the structures in place to support students who come from non-traditional backgrounds. It also extends to ensure every student has what they need to succeed in the classroom. DFEI provides access to digital equipment and remote access to software, minimising the costs for individual students. The college also offers a more digital service to “keep up with the times.”

Even before the pandemic, DFEI began using digital tools to provide support to students. Students have access to a virtual learning environment (VLE), where they can find everything they need for their course. Next year could see a return to blended learning with more students back in the classroom rather than committing to another year of full remote.

For Ó Murchadha, however, digital is as much about technology as it is about the student experience.

“It’s really all about support; I think that’s what a lot of colleges forget. The whole experience should be about the student, and these supports and technologies have to be there to support the student, not make life easier for teachers and administrators.”

Connecting Students with Opportunities in the Dún Laoghaire Community

DFEI offers opportunities for students to receive the latest training in their career of choice or find new pathways into university. Part of this training will soon include an even more interactive element: the opportunity to work with local businesses in Dún Laoghaire to practice new skills, network, and give back to the area.

“We have so many departments, so many courses that can build relationships within the community so easily, including through work placements,” Ó Murchadha says. “The benefit is really for the business. If a local business in town comes to us and says they want to market a new idea, [DFEI] can partner with them. We can pair the business with students to do television, radio, music, or journalism. We can do everything from start to finish.”

It all harkens back to Ó Murchadha’s goal of putting community needs first, whether the community is potential or current DFEI students or the town. Ultimately, he sees these two groups complementing each other and making Dún Laoghaire as a whole stronger.

“I want people to think we’re a part of Dún Laoghaire first and foremost. There’s nothing better than community. We’re the only college in Dún Laoghaire, and even though we’re a college, we’re the same as a small business in that we need to be successful. Through shared investment and natural partnership, we will all benefit.”