Shaun Fogarty, a fourth year student on the BSc in Mobile Communications and Security who is to feature in a new documentary to be shown on RTÉ. Below, with his mum Gretta Pictures: Diarmuid Greene/True Media
Monday, November 2, 2020

A University of Limerick student’s ‘unique story’ is to feature in a new documentary to be shown on RTÉ, starting this Friday.

Shaun Fogarty, a fourth year student on the BSc in Mobile Communications and Security who is in a wheelchair and on a ventilator, will appear in My Uni Life, a series following the lives of seven students at various stages of their university journey.

The Irish Universities Association has partnered with RTÉ to create the five-part series, which focuses on seven out of more than 5000 students each year whose desire to succeed at third level education is facilitated and supported by the Access and Disability programmes run by Irish Universities. 

Shaun, who lives in Cahir, Tipperary had his life and university experience transformed overnight when he was severely injured in a road traffic accident in 2012. He had just finished his first year of Applied Physics at UL.

Despite a long recovery in hospital and the need for full time care assistance, Shaun was determined to complete his education.

“I enjoyed filming the documentary and I feel it allowed me to demonstrate my ability to take part in a wide range of activities. I hope it shows that it’s possible to achieve your goals with hard work and perseverance,” explained Shaun, who suffered a C1 spinal injury leading to paralysis.

Shaun has a network of care support around him that he manages so that he can travel to UL for his studies and the staff in UL’s Student Affairs division say he is “an amazing person”, while the university disability support service has been vital for Shaun’s progression through third-level education.

Brenda Shinners-Kennedy, UL’s Head of Disability Support Services, said: “Shaun’s story is unique, his courage and determination is beyond anything that I have seen in my 25 years’ experience as a Disability Officer.

“We did know Shaun prior to his accident and as he was already a student at UL. He is an example of the type of determination that is required to be a ‘good’ student and displays this in everything he does.

“In my many years of working in the area of Disability Access my experience has taught me that Access without supports is an opportunity loaded with risk. Access with supports is an opportunity to succeed,” added Brenda.

Filmed over the past 12 months, the series provides a unique and authentic insight into the lives of seven students across the country, as they navigate through personal challenges and the current COVID-19 pandemic while trying to grapple with the move to remote learning.

Every year approximately 32% of first year students enter UL via alternative access routes from under-represented groups.

Over the last 3 years 662 students have entered through the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and over 511 students through the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE).

Outlining the role Irish universities play, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said: “Irish universities play a crucial and growing role in fostering and enabling social inclusion and mobility. The many access routes the universities support are key to building a long-term inclusive society in Ireland.

“As a result of the work done by the Access and Disability programmes run by Irish Universities the student body is becoming a more and more diverse group. It is incredibly positive to see that in the 2017/18 academic year 15% of entrants were from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, while almost 10% of new entrants had some form of disability and 6.6% were mature students. But, we have much more to do.

“It is paramount that we do everything possible to support increased access for all students who need it,” he added.

Beginning on Friday November 6 at 7.30pm, the series will run for five weeks across RTÉ One featuring seven different students and their own personal journeys to higher education.

The students are: Adam Freegrove from Dublin studying at UCD, Cathal Blake from Meath studying at DCU, Alpha Ike from Cavan studying at MU, Courtney McGrath from Cavan studying at TCD, Chrisdina O’Neill from Cork studying at UCC, Shaun Fogarty from Tipperary studying at UL, and Róisín Farragher from Galway studying at NUI Galway.

For more, see here.