Dr Des Fitzgerald delivered his inaugural lecture as President of University of Limerick on Tuesday, October 10. Dr Fitzgerald, who took up the role of UL President on May 1st this year, outlined in his address, a number of areas of focus and strategic direction for the university under his tenure.
A significant area of focus will be access to university, which remains a serious problem in Limerick. “Limerick city has among the lowest rates of students getting into university. I have visited schools in Limerick and have been struck by the startling differences in access rates among schools just a few miles apart. Not everyone wants to go to university but as President of UL my key objective is that any child who could go to university – should go to university,” said Dr Fitzgerald.
As a local authority funded scholar himself, Dr Fitzgerald has a personal interest in this area.
“I finished school when I was 17. None of my family had been to university, we never spoke about it at home and nobody came to the school from nearby universities. So, I looked for a job. I had several interviews, with the Post Office, with the bank and with an insurance company, while I worked as a developer of photographic film, with no success.
“In September of that year, however, I had a letter from the county council offering to pay my fees for the course of my choice in university, so I went to university and now I’m the President of one. That is what assisted access does.”
UL has many excellent programmes in place to aid access to programmes for students from all backgrounds and to receive support to complete their degrees. This year, UL was named a University of Sanctuary for its work in helping refugees and asylum seekers here, start or continue their university studies.
Dr Fitzgerald will also be focusing on increasing flexible learning and training programmes at UL, broadening the university’s research base, attracting highly cited academics to join the UL community, continuing to support Limerick and its wider communities and improving UL’s position on the University World Rankings.
“The fundamental principles underpin our university today – a focus on scholarship driven by research by outstanding academics, an engaged student body and a strong commitment to community,” concluded Dr Fitzgerald.