Education is a passport to your future career | AIT Access

Education is a passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.

Education is an instrument of social mobility. It is a powerful equalizer capable of enlightening and empowering people to overcome the limitations of their socio-economic circumstances. In keeping with the provision of providing an equal opportunity learning environment for all, Athlone Institute of Technology has designed an access programme to equip early school leavers, mature students, and others, with the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to progress to third level education.

AIT Access Officer, Theresa Ryan, explains: “Our Access programme is a great introduction to college. Students become part of a group who are all making the brave decision to venture into third level education. They support each other and keep each other going. Some course participants decide college is not for them or it’s not the right time in their lives to progress onto an undergraduate course. Interestingly, I have found that people who don’t complete the course or progress still recommend it to their family and friends, which is a great endorsement of the course.

“I have been involved with the Access programme for more than 10 years now and during that time I have met people who went on to complete certificates, degrees, masters and PhDs. They have worked hard, juggling college work and familial commitments. I’ve huge admiration for people who have the courage to change their lives through education. It isn’t easy but with a little tenacity and conviction, they make it happen.”

Since its inception in 1994, hundreds of people have benefited from AIT’s Access programme. Husband and wife duo, Lyndsey and Daniel Ratcliffe are two such examples. When the recession hit in 2009, Daniel was made redundant and unable to find gainful employment. Weighing up his options, he decided to return to education to reskill. Daniel was put in touch with Access Officer, Theresa Ryan, who recommended he embark on a one-year Access programme. Upon successful completion, Daniel enrolled in a Social Care degree also at Athlone Institute of Technology.

Lyndsey, an early school leaver, was inspired and made the difficult decision to return to education. “It was tough as my youngest child was in preschool at the time, but after seeing how well Danny had done, I was determined to succeed, she said.” There was no stopping her. Lyndsey successfully completed the one-year Access programme before enrolling in an honours degree in Toxicology, a masters and, eventually, imbued with confidence, a PhD.

“The Access Course helps you to work out your strengths and is perfect for finding out what course works best for you. Without this course, I wouldn’t have chosen the right discipline. I wouldn’t have known what I was good at. One of the surprises for me was maths - I thought it would be something I would struggle with but I was good at it. I loved science in school but I never knew that I would be able to go on to actually study it at third level. If I hadn’t done the Access Course, it would never have been possible,” she said.

The one-year NFQ Level 6 programme furnishes students with a basic understanding of computing, technology, science, engineering, business and humanities and offers direct progression to a variety of Higher Certificate and Ordinary Degree level courses. The Access programme will commence in September 2018. Prospective students can apply directly to the institute. Application forms may be downloaded from the AIT website, or obtained by contacting the Access Office ( If you have any queries, please call the access office at (090) 646 8123. Completed application forms should be returned to The Access Office, Athlone Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Athlone, Co. Westmeath N37 HD68.

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