Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Time to regroup for MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism

The course team for the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (CEESA) at Maynooth have decided to suspend the course for a year to regroup, before planning a relaunch starting in September 2016. (In other words we are happy to take applications for the coming year!)

The immediate cause is application numbers which are too low to provide a genuinely participatory and engaged classroom experience for the social movement activists and community educators who the course is designed for. It is combined with cuts to university funding and pressures to increase student numbers which make it increasingly difficult to run programmes with small groups There is a general crisis in MA numbers in Ireland, brought on by the slashing of postgraduate grants but also by massive emigration (there are over 200,000 fewer people in their 20s in 2014 than in 2009, a drop of over 27%). Education can contribute to challenging austerity, but it is also affected by it.

We would like to take this opportunity to regroup and reconsider the programme in the light of these wider changes in the social and educational landscape.  In wider terms the course has been something of a victim of its own success: other courses which previously focussed on analysis and policy are now integrating much more of an emphasis on social movements and / or organising skills; previously single-issue courses are now including a wider focus on other issues and movements; while a series of new courses aimed at activists have appeared in Ireland and the UK (in keeping with our strategy of solidarity between such projects we have included links to our sister courses on our website). We are happy to see these developments, but they also mean that we need to reconsider what we can offer to people active in movements and communities and highlight this more strongly. We hope to organise a public event with activists and course participants in the course of the coming year to discuss what our future direction should be.

Our blog bears witness to the many different movements, in Ireland and internationally, that we have engaged with over the first five years of the course, whether in the form of students from particular communities and movements, our visiting speakers, fieldtrips, and our own involvement. Ireland, and Maynooth in particular, has a long tradition of movements developing their own forms of education, learning and theorising and of working together with students and engaged intellectuals, and we are proud to be part of this rich, messy, transformative, at times fraught and radical tradition.

We want to pay tribute to everyone who has participated on the course: individual students, visiting speakers, the organisations we have worked with, and the staff of our departments and across the university. These have been hard years to keep going for students, staff and the wider activist community, but we have constantly been re-invigorated by the passion and commitment to social justice by all involved. In particular, we want to acknowledge how the austerity regime and the rising level of precarious employment in the university has had a direct and very negative  impact on programmes such as ours. Efforts to combat this through trade union activity have not resulted in the victories we would hope for, but vibrant campaigns are now making these issues far more visible and success in such struggles more likely.   

In looking towards our rethinking and relaunching, we are inspired by the scale of popular struggles, from movements and communities, in Ireland and internationally. This year we have seen the massive upsurge in community-based protest against the water charges together with the extraordinary levels of mobilisation for marriage equality. We are heartened by the ongoing activism evident in many other campaigns, communities and movements. Internationally the battle against austerity in Europe and for climate justice are coming to a head. It is becoming clearer than ever that changing the world depends on people’s extraordinary capacity to educate, agitate and organise, and we look forward to working out how we can best support and help develop this through a radically different kind of activist education.

The CEESA course team

Enquiries and applications for September 2016 entry: 
Please contact the Dept of Sociology, Maynooth:, +353-1-708 3659.  

Update (Sept 2015):
We are currently working on a programme of events for the academic year 2015. Watch this space!