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Project Title:NUS/USI: Student Community Relations Development Programme
Contact:Fiona McMahon
29 Bedford Street
Telephone:01232 244641
Fax:01232 439569


The NUS/USI Student Community Relations Development Programme was established in March 1995 for a period of 3 years. The overall aim of the project is: "to be sought out and respected as a lead authority in the promotion of effective anti-sectarianism initiatives in post-school education provision in Northern Ireland". The programme continues to work towards this goal, using a range of delivery mechanisms within a variety of community relations paradigms.


* There have been 21 training events, involving approximately 660 participants, 45 facilitators and 55 speakers.

* Training programmes have included Student Union and Student Services Staff, women students, student members of religious groups, student teachers, student council representatives, student members of political parties and voluntary organisations.

* The learning methods used have been based on the action learning techniques of small group work and information conferences on particular themes such as social inclusion, policing in a divided community and issues relating to the Irish Language, for example.


* The Community Relations Programme has been promoted through 43 college roadshow visits throughout Northern Ireland. These visits have distributed 10,000 leaflets, 4,000 posters and 3,000 postcards.

* 2,000 Student Community Relations Guides have been used in the promotion of the programme to interested organisations and students. The guide is also available on the Internet, providing up to date information to a local and international audience.

* An art exhibition entitled "Communication in Conflict" has toured four colleges in Northern Ireland and was also displayed at NUS Conference 1997.

* A short film entitled "h" was commissioned, examining issues relating to youth culture and sectarianism. This was directed by students from the University of Ulster. A training pack and tutors notes accompanying the video will be available in September 1997.


* A study on Single Identity Training for Student Teachers was completed in April 1996 which formed the basis of a training programme for first year teacher education students.

* A Research Award was established with the support of CCRU. A bursary has already been awarded and the scheme continues next academic year. It is hoped the research will provide an important retrospective account of student activity in the development of community relations work in Northern Ireland.

Internal Development

* The two National Student Unions (NUS & USI) have both developed and implemented new policy guidelines relating to Northern Ireland. The policies commit both organisations, for the first time, to a joint anti-sectarian platform and the further development of student community relations work.

* Individual Student Unions in Northern Ireland are re-examining the policies and procedures they have in place to create an inclusive learning environment.

* Community Relations work is embedded in the structures of local student unions and has become part of the essential role that student representation performs in higher education provision.

* Prompted by NUS/USI, Queens Student Union, with support from CRC, have begun a consultancy process to review the Bilingual Policy of the student union. Cross-community groups of students have been involved in this process, aimed at making the student union more inclusive in the acceptance of cultural diversity.

* The Community Relations Programme has initiated programmes with student union and student services staff. This process involves community relations training and the promotion of organisational change through the structures of educational institutions and related student services organisations.

* Within the European student movement, the Community Relations Programme is leading initiatives promoting education for democracy and cultural diversity programmes.

External Developments

* A Strategy Guide on the Management of Diversity has been produced, concentrating on the strategic development of community relations work within the structures and culture of post-school educational institutions. This process received funding from the Nuffield Foundation.

* A close working relationship with CRC and NUS/USI has included the forthcoming establishment of a third level education partnership for the development of community relations initiatives across the sector.

* NUS/USI has also worked closely with DENI in the development of community relations work in the education sector in Northern Ireland. A conference on Promoting Effective Community Relations Strategies in the post-school sector created a useful network and highlighted the need for more effective strategic development processes in the sector.

* The Community Relations Programme has been involved in the Community Relations Youth Work Network (CRYWN) which has promoted the need for a central co-ordinating body for community relations work for the dissemination of good practise in the youth sector.

* An on-going relationship has also been established with the European Youth Forum. NUS/USI is involved in the development of a European Conference on Intolerance and Pluralism with the Community Relations Programme highlighted as a major case-study highlighting cultural diversity.


In conclusion, the NUS/USI Student Community Relations Development Programme has had a wide reaching and positive impact on the student environment in Northern Ireland. The Programme continues to use imaginative approaches in the promotion of its work and is increasingly involved in development strategies to embed community relations work within the structures and processes of third level educational institutions.

In the heightening of awareness around community relations issues in Northern Ireland, there has been a greater understanding of diversity issues relating to the European Union and international conflict zones. The NUS/USI Student Community Relations Development Programme continues to adapt and develop in an ever changing political and social environment. We believe that the Students of Northern Ireland have a positive contribution to make to the acceptance of diversity in Northern Ireland and that the Community Relations Programme can encourage and facilitate a wider political accommodation in the medium to long term.

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