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Widening Participation Image


Widening participation involves targeting those groups who are underrepresented in Higher Education. St Mary's aims to raise awareness of the current learning opportunities available, and the support that students can avail of in their transition to Higher Education.

St Mary's will focus on access for students with disabilities, mature students and those from low participation neighbourhoods.

The Widening Access and Participation Plan for St Mary's can be viewed here

Susan Morgan is the Widening Access and Participation Officer.

Telephone: 028 90268250


Taster Experience at St Mary's University College

A taster experience gives students the opportunity to experience life in Higher Education. On the day you will have an opportunity to attend a lecture or tutorial and meet with academic staff.  Our Student Union Executive are on hand to offer advice and to give you a tour of our campus.

The taster experience is run annually and is primarily aimed at Year 13 and 14 students as well as those who are considering applying to the College.


To find out more about the taster experience please contact the Widening Access and Participation Officer.


Students with Disabilities

St Mary's welcomes applications from students with a Disability and provides care and support to encourage equal opportunities for all.  In order that the College may assess your need for appropriate help or support, it requests that you indicate the nature of your disability in the appropriate section of the application form.  You may be entitled to support during the application process so it is important for you to provide the College with details.

The information applicants give us will be dealt with according to the requirements of the Data Protection Act. Your permission will be sought if information is to be circulated more widely to other University staff.  Disability information will only be disclosed to another person with the student's consent.


View the Student Disability Policy.


If you are called to attend a selection interview for a place on an BEd programme you must notify St Mary's of your support needs as soon as possible so that reasonable adjustments can be made in advance of your attendance e.g. if you have dyslexic tendencies and use a portable reading pen we can arrange an alternative venue for you to complete your written task.

If you were born in the UK or meet specific residency requirements, you may be eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs). If are an Irish student studying in the UK and need additional support as a result of your disability you may be eligible for support from the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD).

FSD is administered by the National Office for Equity and Access (Higher Education Authority Ireland) and DSA is administered by your local Education & Library Board (E.L.B.) in Northern Ireland. For information contact the Student Affairs Office at St Mary's University College or the Disability Adviser.

For more information on DSAs click here and to access a DSA1 form and guidance notes visit www.studentfinanceni.co.uk


Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD)


For information on the guidelines for the Fund for Students with Disabilities go to www.studentfinance.ie

This website provides comprehensive information about the full range of financial support available to eligible students in Ireland.

Please note that there are deadlines for the applications for FSD.

For further information on FSD go to www.hea.ie

Examples of the types of support available to students with disabilities are listed below:


Personal Learning Support

  • Information and advice
  • Assistive technology
  • Assistive technology support and training
  • Access to PCs with assistive technology installed
  • Specialist equipment e.g. dictaphone, laptop, furniture
  • Academic or Personal assistant
  • Proof reader
  • Personal Note taker during lectures
  • Specialist tuition for students with dyslexia
  • Academic tuition for students with disabilities
  • Mental Health Mentor
  • General Study tutor
  • Library support
  • Flexible coursework deadlines
  • Travelling expenses
  • Financial assistance for consumables e.g. photocopying

Exam Support

  • Alternative exam venue
  • Extra time allowance for exams
  • Rest breaks
  • Use of a scribe or a reader
  • Technological Aids

Students with a Disability


  • Once you have accepted your place at St Mary's and have informed the Academic Registry of your need for additional support, you can make an appointment with the Student Support Officer.
  • You will be referred to a Disability Officer within Disability Services at  Queen's University Belfast for an assessment of your needs (if this has not already occurred). The Disability Officer will make recommendations.
  • You will need to present recent medical evidence of your disability (last 2 years) supplied by your GP (medical condition) or an Educational Psychologist (learning disability) to the Disability Officer in Queen's and to the Student Support Officer in St Mary's.
  • The Disability Officer will apply for Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) on your behalf.
  • The Disability Officer will forward your assessment recommendations to St Mary’s.
  • The completed DSA application form, assessment recommendations and all recent medical evidence are forwarded to the local education authority (ELB) for processing.
  • You may have to complete an equipment request form and return it to your local education authority for processing. Your ELB and the Disability Officer will advise you of the outcome of your application and may put specific interim measures in place where necessary i.e. employment of a personal assistant, training on using assistive technologies etc.
  • You are advised to keep a record of the support you receive in addition to all receipts.
  • St Mary's has sole responsibility for implementing appropriate levels of exam support for you.
Do not hesitate to contact St Mary's for further information.

All students with disability-related support needs should call the free information helpline 0800 7319133 quoting reference N/BTGB/V9 and request ‘Bridging the Gap: A guide to the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in Higher Education’.

Alternatively call the local Education and Library Board and request this document.

Supporting the Needs of Mature Students


St Mary's welcomes applications from mature students and provides support and advice to those returning to education. Mature students are encouraged to attend Open Days or the Taster Experience.


Mature Students often enquire about the cost of Higher Education. Read our finance section for information on current fees for all full time courses. More financial information for prospective students residing in Northern Ireland can be obtained from www.studentfinanceni.co.uk


For impartial careers information, advice and guidance visit the website of the Educational Guidance Service for Adults in Northern Ireland www.egsa.org.uk

What mature students had to say:


Being Apprehensive, Being Mature:

"The first day I just wanted to run away, I felt like a fish out of water.  I was scared - I did’t know what to expect and you can imagine how I felt in my black business suit when everyone else was dressed casually!  At that time I didn't realise that all the younger students were just as scared - university was new to them also."

"Quite often there is an assumption that mature students know more than younger students, this is not always the case despite our greater life experiences so I have learned that if you don't know something you just have to ask." 


Family Responsibilities:

"I must say I had a few extensions in my time!! if your child was sick or your mother had to go into hospital the lecturers understood the impact of other commitments in your personal life."


"I remember experiencing pangs of guilt during my first year when my daughter had her first dental appointment for a filling.  I was unable to go to with her as I had to attend a lecture, I need not have worried, she was fine!"

"Time with the children has been sacrificed in the short term as sometimes I am at St Mary's (finishing project work) until 9pm in the evening, however when we do get time together it really is quality time."


Family Support:

"I face the usual hurdles e.g. juggling my home life and studies, meeting deadlines for assignments, studying for finals and dealing with the unexpected events for example when my children are sick but I am lucky to have the support of a good family."

"My advice to students with young children would be to ensure you have a good support network with family and friends.  They will become invaluable when you are under pressure to get the work done, but they will also be the ones to encourage you to keep going.  I have many people to thank for their constant support and encouragement.   It is also important to commit yourself to study in order to gain the most enjoyment from it."


Time Management, Planning and Finance:

"I was fortunate to work full-time on shift patterns at a residential care organisation so financially I coped well whilst at university – I still took out a student loan and I am currently paying the monthly instalments as I now earn more than £15,000. I could not have made a better investment."

"I study when I can, be it at night or between lectures and I try to get work done within a certain timeframe rather than leave it to the last minute."


"As for free time!  When I am not with my family it is allocated to projects, study and revision." 


"I am paying for my own education and can truly say that for the most part I have received an excellent return on my investment.  I will graduate next year and although I am in debt to the tune of £14,000 (as are most Higher Education students), I have and will continue to relish every opportunity that comes my way." 


"Generally I have to keep to a budget, organise my time, car share, plan and prepare meals in advance etc it all becomes part of your routine yet it is so important to plan ahead."

"Whilst at St Mary's I became a peer tutor and I found this role very rewarding."


"I remember one evening when I rushed home, had a shower and went to study at Queen's library.  During my break I sat outside the library, my hair still wet, watching passers by going to Christmas parties and thinking I should be doing that! but it all came back to the fact that my learning was more important than socialising and I was doing something that was a joy for me."

Care Experienced Young People

Guidance on Pathways to Further and Higher Education for Looked After and Care Experienced Young People