Student Experience

Access students enrolled at DCU
University of Sanctuary Scholarships
visitors to the Colm Delves Leadership Lab
elite student athletes supported
students engaged in DCU sports clubs

Supporting Students to Excel...

At DCU, we are passionate about pioneering a transformative student experience. We innovate in our teaching, empower our students to excel, and ensure our doors are open to all. The vision and generosity of our donors make this world-class student experience possible. Thanks to our supporters, we continued to lead the way in widening participation in higher education in Ireland last year, in recognising academic and sporting excellence, and in providing cutting-edge educational, academic and sporting facilities that enable our students to fulfil their potential and make their mark on the world.

Pictured: The inaugural Dr Séamus McDermott Entrepreneurial Scholarship was awarded to first year Business student Oscar Bourke

Student Experience initiatives supported by philanthropy in 2022/23 included:

Memorial and Endowed Scholarships

In 2022/23, we were pleased to award 28 scholarships created in memory of some of the University’s most cherished past students, staff and friends. This year, a new memorial scholarship was created in memory of leading Irish businessman and senator, Feargal Quinn. A further 16 students were awarded DCU’s endowed scholarships and ICON scholarships, generously created by friends and supporters of the university. A new endowed scholarship, the Strain – Goldman Sachs Endowed Women in STEM Postgraduate Scholarship was also presented for the first time to support an exceptional female STEM student engaged in postgraduate study.

Dr Séamus McDermott Entrepreneurial Scholarship

In March 2023, the inaugural Dr Séamus McDermott Entrepreneurial Scholarship was awarded to first-year Business student Oscar Bourke. This scholarship was created thanks to a generous philanthropic donation from The Liffey Trust and was presented by the Trust’s founder, Dr Séamus McDermott. Oscar, who has proven his entrepreneurial spirit by founding two businesses, was chosen from almost 700 applicants for the scholarship, which is worth €9,000 over the course of his studies.

Access Scholarships

Our supporters helped to provide life-changing scholarships to all 1,122 Access students enrolled at DCU in 2022/23. This scholarship support removes barriers to success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, enabling bright minds to achieve even more. In over 30 years running Ireland’s first and largest Access programme, we have developed a comprehensive package of personal, financial and academic supports that empowers students to excel in their studies and fulfil their potential, with 98% of graduates in 2022 achieving a higher honours degree.

Access Outreach

Thanks to support from JPMorgan Chase, DCU’s Step Up in STEM Programme has continued to raise student aspirations and promote a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as a real possibility for students living in disadvantaged north Dublin communities. Last year, this programme worked with over 680 Transition Year students in 21 partner schools to increase engagement in STEM subjects. In an independent evaluation, 74.5% of students reported that the programme made them more aware of opportunities to study STEM in university.

Colm Delves Leadership Lab

Designed to develop next generation leaders, this lab is one of the first dedicated mixed reality classrooms in Europe. This state-of-the- art leadership lab was established with philanthropic support from Digicel in memory of business leader and DCU alumnus Colm Delves. This year, the lab delivered immersive virtual reality experiences to over 2,280 visitors, including DCU students, industry partners, and students from local secondary schools. Through over 4,750 virtual reality hours, the lab empowered students to develop key digital and leadership skills, learning about and through virtual reality.

DCU Sport

Support from Ballymore and Decathlon in 2022/23 continued to power the success of DCU Sport in encouraging students to enjoy the wellbeing benefits of physical activity, and in enabling elite athletes to be the best they can be in sport and in life. Last year, 6,000 students engaged in physical activity through DCU’s 26 sports clubs, while 225 elite athletes received a package of sports scholarships, performance, academic and personal supports. Our 2022/23 sporting highlights included winning the O’Connor Cup, the top women’s collegiate Gaelic football competition, and taking home the SSI/IRFU Women’s Tier 1 Cup in rugby. DCU Athletics continued their dominance on the university athletics scene, winning the overall team prize at the Irish University Athletics Association Championships for the 15th consecutive year.

Building a Campus
for the Future

DCU Polaris is more than just a new building. It’s a guiding light for the future of education and a catalyst that will kick-start DCU’s ambitious next chapter. Polaris will be a new home for STEM at DCU, accelerating advances in how we educate, research, innovate and connect.

DCU Polaris is rapidly taking shape on campus, and is set to open to students and researchers in 2024. This project will be a key focus for us in the coming year, as we seek further philanthropic support for an anticipated investment of €80 million to deliver a truly world-class facility.

With 30,000 visitors a year, DCU Polaris will be a hub of innovation and collaboration where DCU researchers, students, industry partners and community members can work together in new ways to solve society’s greatest challenges. In addition, Polaris will be Ireland’s most advanced teaching and learning facility for STEM subjects.

DCU Polaris will help us build on our research strengths in a wide range of areas, from deepening our work in children’s health and physical literacy to expanding our exploration of AI for better living and continuing to lead innovation and advance knowledge in elite sports performance and the Internet of Things.

Annually powering:

STEM students
advancing knowledge
students accessing innovative, collaborative facilities
hours of mixed reality learning
hours of prototyping solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges

Focus On:
Veronica Guerin Washington Scholarships

In 2023, DCU journalism students Liam Coates and Erin Murphy were awarded the first Veronica Guerin Washington Scholarships. These scholarships were established by DCU’s School of Communications, Mediahuis Ireland (formerly Independent News & Media) and an anonymous donor in memory of investigative journalist Veronica Guerin, who was murdered in 1996.

The scholarships allow two DCU journalism students to complete their work experience placements in the United States, further enhancing their learning experience on Ireland’s top-ranked journalism course. From May to August 2023, the students worked at the Washington Bureau of the Cronkite School of Journalism as part of a global partnership arrangement between DCU and Arizona State University (ASU). Based at the ASU Washington Bureau, the students developed digital and broadcast news content for Cronkite News, a division of Arizona Public Broadcasting Service, and worked with US journalism students in delivering a news programme for Cronkite News.

Erin and Liam are both final-year undergraduate students on DCU’s BA in Journalism at the School of Communications. Erin is currently Deputy Editor of Arts and Culture of The College View, the DCU student newspaper. Liam is Arts Editor at The College View, and was nominated for two National Student Media Awards in 2022.

From left: Professor Kevin Rafter, DCU; Cormac Bourke, Mediahuis Ireland Editor-in-Chief; DCU journalism students Liam Coates and Erin Murphy, and President of DCU Professor Dáire Keogh.
Photo: Gerry Mooney/Mediahuis

“Mediahuis Ireland is delighted to continue its association with the Veronica Guerin Scholarship at DCU and to see two journalism students getting this very exciting opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the United States. Veronica Guerin was a fearless investigative reporter whose work as a journalist, and commitment to press freedom, remains an inspiration for everyone working in the Irish media.”

Cormac Bourke, Editor-in-Chief, Mediahuis Ireland

Focus On:
Excellence & Opportunity
Aaron’s Story

"By speaking to the pilots at Emerald, I’ve also learned more about the different paths you can take to the pilot seat. My dream already feels more achievable."

Aviation has traditionally been seen as an elitist career, with research showing that young people from socio-economically disadvantaged groups are less likely to believe a career in aviation could be open to them. DCU pioneers inclusion in aviation – and in this piece, Aviation Management student Aaron shares how support from the DCU Access Programme is helping him to achieve his dreams.

“I’ve wanted to be a pilot ever since I can remember. For me, Aviation Management at DCU is a stepping-stone to that dream.

I was born in Dublin, but we moved to Cavan when I was ten. We’d had some problems before that, so it was meant to be a new start. But that wasn’t how things worked out, and my sisters and I were taken into care. Growing up, I was in foster care with four different families. Because I moved around a lot, it was hard trying to settle in or make friends. I still had visits with my mam, and I think she saw the potential for a better life for us. She didn’t get the chance to do what she wanted to do in life, but she encouraged us to do our best. Our secondary school really had a focus on helping people go on to third level too. It was through school that I heard about the DCU Access Programme.

When I first came to DCU, it was overwhelming, but the support from the Access Programme really helped me settle in. One of my main worries is still finance. I absolutely wouldn’t be here at all without the SUSI grant and the Access Programme. That support has really boosted my confidence and I feel like I can do a lot more.

This year, I am completing my INTRA placement with Emerald Airlines. Through my internship, I’ve experienced countless different aspects of airline operations, from rerouting customers and processing baggage to liaising with pilots and marshalling flights in to land. I am problem-solving on the spot every day, and that experience has given me more confidence in my own abilities.

It was great to have the opportunity to put what I learned at university into practice in a real-world setting, and I’ve accomplished a lot. By speaking to the pilots at Emerald, I’ve also learned more about the different paths you can take to the pilot seat. My dream already feels more achievable.

The people I’ve met at DCU have changed my life forever. I’m part of the DCU Aviation Society, and I love to travel too. After college, I might work in airports for a while to save up some money, then maybe get a loan to cover pilot training. It’s expensive, so it will take a few years to get there, but I’m 100% going to be a pilot.

I think I’ve come a long way as a person. I grew up in care, and a lot of foster kids have the odds stacked against them. I think what I’m doing shows other foster kids what they can achieve. It was tough for me in life, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.”

Focus On:
Excellence & Opportunity
- Mellisa’s Story

“It means a lot to grant us that security, where all we need to do for a better life is to study, without worrying about tuition fees and what you have to eat. There are different ways people empower themselves, but I think education can give everyone a chance in life.”

Mellisa was one of 16 students supported by DCU’s University of Sanctuary programme in 2022/23, thanks to the generosity of Aircastle and Siemens. Mellisa left Zimbabwe in 2016, when the country was under the regime of Robert Mugabe. During her final year as a Nursing (Mental Health) student, she reflects on how far she has come.

“I came to Ireland from Zimbabwe as an asylum seeker in 2016. At first, it was a bit of a culture shock. It was so cold that winter, I wore a puffer jacket all the time, even in the house!

Soon after I arrived, I began a Level 5 course in healthcare, and what I learned about dementia and schizophrenia sparked my interest in mental health nursing. At the time, I didn’t have the papers I needed to work in healthcare, so I continued my studies on a Level 6 course, and later applied to study Nursing at DCU. When I was accepted, I was delighted. This was my dream, and I was determined not to let the fees stand in my way. I wanted to become someone and make a difference. 

It was a relief to be accepted into the University of Sanctuary programme and to know that I wouldn’t have to pay international student fees. Through the programme, I was able to get a laptop and financial support. Thanks to that support, I’m not always stressed and I’m able to get the school supplies I need. We get lunch vouchers too, so I always have food at college, and it really helps out.

I chose to study Mental Health Nursing because it is close to my heart. Where I come from, people have challenges with mental health, but they don’t address it. There isn’t as much education about mental health back home, and there are a lot of stereotypes around it.

I’m on my final-year nursing placement now in Phoenix Care Centre, and reflecting on where I started, I can see how far I’ve come. My journey is easier now that I’m not worried about fees. It was sometimes challenging to balance college work with placement work, especially when I was also working part-time with the Peter McVerry Trust. But I was glad to be able to help people out as they navigate life, and navigate homelessness and addiction. After my course, I hope I’ll be able to keep working in mental health services, and I’d like to apply for a Master’s after a few years’ experience.

I would like to thank the people who have supported this programme. To have this opportunity makes such a huge difference. It is usually financial problems that cause people to drop out, but now everything is taken care of.”

Focus On:
DCU Sport
Kate Kenny

Biomedical Engineering student Kate Kenny is a dual Gaelic football and camogie star from Offaly. Named LGFA Player of the Month in March 2023 for her exploits with DCU’s O’Connor Cup winning football team, here she explains how DCU Sport helps her to excel on and off the pitch.

As a student athlete, what drew you to DCU?

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t for sport! It’s a dream come true to be able to play at such a high level while studying at the same time and being surrounded by likeminded people.

In our family, sport was always part of life. At club level, I play football for Naomh Ciarán club and camogie with St Rynagh’s – they’re actually major rivals, but my local club didn’t have a girls’ camogie team, so I had to make the leap!

In college sport, making good memories and getting to know people is the real goal. Sometimes you even end up playing on the same college team as a rival of your club team. You might think you know someone from playing against them, but when you’re on the same team you get to become friends.

I think winning the O’Connor Cup with DCU Dóchas Éireann was probably one of my proudest moments in football. In camogie, our team won the Ashbourne Cup last year, which is the main college camogie competition. DCU had never won that cup before, so it was great to be part of that team making history.

Biggest challenges balancing high performance sport and university?

I think they really complement each other, but you need a good routine. Knowing that you have a match or training sets time limits for your college work – so if there’s a day where I don’t have training, I’m more likely to procrastinate! I also use training and going to the gym as a break from studying, so I have a nice balance. It’s helping me to build my time management skills and stay organised.

The MSc in Biomedical Engineering appealed to me because it’s an ever-changing field. I’m on placement now in a pharmaceutical company, and I could see myself going into this industry. I might like to work in Rehabilitation Engineering either, with prosthetics and helping people after injury – and that definitely ties in with sports.

How has DCU Sport helped you achieve your goals?

Thanks to my sports scholarship, I live with other athletes, and we have the same lifestyle. We don’t go out regularly, because we all have training and we all understand that. I’m lucky to be living with likeminded people. Having access to the gym and the pool through DCU Sport is brilliant too, it’s great to have those facilities as an athlete.

In DCU, if there’s anything I need help with, all I have to do is ask. DCU Careers Service has been a big help lately, and I feel lucky to have so many other studentsupports available if I need them.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to play at such a high level while studying at the same time and being surrounded by likeminded people.”