Dr Derek Barter

Adult and Community Education, ALL Institute

Co-ordinator of Continuing Education Programmes and Manager BA Local Studies and BA Community Studies

Maynooth University School of Education
(01) 708 3948


Dr Derek Barter is the Continuing Education Co-Ordinator in the Dept. of Adult and Community Education (DACE)

Maynooth University and Director of the Communiversity. Completing a PhD in modern history in 2009, his dissertation focussed on identity politics in Ireland, nationalism, de-Anglicisation, unsettled social and constitutional relationships through the competing discourses of culture in the popular song tradition. While undertaking his doctoral research, Dr. Barter began working for the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee as an Education Development Worker in the Soilse Drug Free project in Dublin’s north inner city. He initiated the NUI Maynooth Return to Learning Programme in Soilse which helped the programme to with two Aontas Star awards. At the same time he began working in the Canals Community Partnership managing, designing and developing community based educational programmes in the south inner city in Bluebell, Dolphin’s Barn, Fatima Mansions, Rialto and Inchicore. It was in these posts that main areas of interest  ‘Community Engagement and Widening Participation within HE’ began.

In his post as Academic Co-ordinator of Continuing Education in the Department of Adult and Community Education in Maynooth University his main aim is to facilitate the entry into higher education of mature students who may or may not be first time entrants to university and foster a culture of lifelong learning for personal, community and professional development. This includes the night-time/part-time degree for adults the BA Local Studies/BA Community Studies. 

Dr Barter works with different statutory, voluntary and especially community organisations in order fulfil the university’s strategic goal for Community Engagement and Widening Participation. As Director of the ComMUniversity, he has established a partnership between MU, Leader Partnership Companies and Local Public Libraries that brings Higher Education beyond the campus and into local neighbourhoods. The ComMUniversity won the 2024 Aontas National STAR award for Third Level Access and Engagement. It is now being considered as an Prevention/Early Intervention action by the Dept. of Taoiseach North East Inner City Task Force.    

He concieved of series of Life Skills modules for First Year students which were later developed in the Maynooth University new curriculum for undergraduate students as Critical Skills. He delivers the modules A Social Analysis of Everyday Life: Reflective Practice and A Social Analysis of Everyday Life: Experiential Learning as part of this programme. He was member of the steering committee for the HEA PATH 1 Turn to Teaching. Through dialogue with community partners he proposed the Think About Teaching module of the programme 2017 designed to attract adults from marginalised communities into Initial Teacher Education. These links to the community partners proved invaluable in securing the highest tranche of funding for MU from any of the submitting HEIs.

In 2021 he secured funding through the Europe for Citizens programme under the Democratic engagement and civic participation strand where he has led a consortium of six partners, three universities and three civil society organisations, from across the European continent to engage both students and members of the general public in the conversation on social Europe. The Foundations for Futures Europe project provided space for people to consider issues concerning poverty, disability, migration, identity, employment, education and climate etc. This project is now being considered by the EU Commission as a 'model of best practice' for social inclusion and citizen


Research Interests

As an Action Researcher my interest in Widening Participation, Access, Community Engaged Learning and Lifelong Learning is directly influenced in my practice. My philosophy of education is to create safe dynamic learning spaces where through dialogue, exploration and reflection meaningful learning relevant to the person’s life world and life conditions can emerge in the process of ‘becoming’. My aim is to create an environment that is conducive for the student to realise their own strengths and capabilities.

As a late entrant into Higher Education my research interests stem from my own life experience as a mature student with a working class background entering into a world that was alien and unfamiliar and because of that, difficult to navigate. It has been my previlige to find myself in a position whereby this experience has been useful in working with people who have similar 'outsider' or 'imposter' feelings. These can be the biggest and most intractable obstacles to adults returning to education.

Teaching in Addiction Recovery services, or community based inter cultural groups on certificate programmes has allowed me to witness the real transformational power of education in 'non traditional' settings. This has prompted me to bring the work of the university out to the wider community to create space for civic engagement and widening participation through programmes like the Communiversity and the Foundations for Futures Europe.

 Education as tool for personal development, emancipation and liberation and for the wider public good as a democratising and a consciousness raising process have become the focus of my research interest recently. Trying to understand the social nature of learning, the knowledge and wisdom that is held within groups and how this gets communicated or not have become central to my current thinking on the nature of experiential learning across the lifespan.  

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2020 Derek Barter, Bernie Grummell (2020) 'Learning to live with it: reflections on surviving critical times from Irish adult education'. eucen Studies: eJournal of University Lifelong Learning, Vol 4 (01):31-35. [Link] https://doi.org/10.53807/0401mrfq [Full-Text]
2010 Derek Barter (2010) 'Return to education for recovering drug addicts: the Soilse Project'. The Adult Learner, :132-149. [Link]
2023 Barter D and Hyland S (2023) 'The Communiversity: A partnership approach to community engaged adult education'. eucen Studies: eJournal of University Lifelong Learning, Vol 7 . [Link] https://doi.org/10.53807/0701f8fs
2023 Barter, D (2023) 'The Slow Learner: Feeling our way to Thinking about Lifelong learning'. PRISM: Casting New Light on Learning Theory & Practice, 5 (2). https://doi.org/10.24377/prism.article722 [Full-Text]

Conference Contribution

Year Publication
2022 Derek Barter (2022) Co-Building Opportunities, Recovery, Education and Capabilities. Bridging the Interpretive Gap The Dept. of Adult and Community Education annual Addiction Studies/Psychology Seminar and the ALL Symposium present Growing Space Recovery Community Maynooth University, 24/02/2022-26/02/2022.
2022 Derek Barter, Jennifer Lloyd Hughes (2022) FFE Thinking About Europe Final Conference of the Foundations for Futures Europe project Maynooth University, 20/10/2022-21/10/2022.
2021 Derek Barter, Jennifer Lloyd Hughes (2021) Foundations for Futures Europe Opening Symposium of the EU Citizens for Europe funded Foundations for Futures Europe Project Maynooth University, .
2018 Derek Barter (2018) EUCEN 50th - Times of Transition; the roll of ULLL European Union Continuing Education Network Bergin, Norway, 21/06/2018-21/06/2018.
2018 Derek Barter (2018) HELLIN Conference 2018 ‘Transitions: Lifelong Learning and Higher Education’ HELLIN Annual Conference Maynooth University, 06/12/2018-07/12/2018.


Year Publication
2021 Derek Barter (2021) Change One Thing: The Leaving Cert. needs a rethink. Assisting Living and Learning (ALL) Institute Maynooth University: [Blog] [Link]
2023 Derek Barter (2023) The Older Learner (and Teacher). [Blog] [Link] https://dacemaynooth.com/2023/09/22/lifelong-learning-and-the-older-learner-and-teacher/

Policy Contribution

Year Publication
2021 Derek Barter, Anne Cassidy, Freeda Garman, Aofie Kerrigan, Antoinette Patton (2021) The Communiversity Network: Access All Areas. Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: [Policy Contribution] [Link] [Full-Text]
2020 Barter, Derek, Bernie Grummell and Michael Kenny, (2020) Submission to Consultation for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: Statement of Strategy 2021 – 2023. Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: [Policy Contribution] [Link]
2021 Nugent, Margaret, Derek Barter, Bernie Grummell, Jerry O’Neill, Gareth Byrne, Camilla Fitzsimons, Michael Kenny (2021) Equity of Access to Higher Education. Submission to the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) National Access Plan. Dublin, Ireland: [Policy Contribution] [Link]
2021 Barter, Derek, Gareth Burns, Bernie Grummell, Michael Kenny, Jerry O’Neill (2021) Submission to the independent review of the Student Grant Scheme (SUSI) by The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Maynooth University, Ireland: [Policy Contribution] [Link] [Full-Text]

Online Multimedia

Year Publication
2018 Derek Barter (2018) Brainstorm : The Communiversity. Dublin 4: [Online Multimedia] [Link]


Year Publication
2020 Derek Barter/Sinead Hyland (2020) The ComMUniversity A review of the Communiversity: The university for All. [Report] [Link] [Full-Text]
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2024) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.

Professional Associations

Description Function From / To
European University Continuing Education Network MU Representative -
Higher Education Lifelong Learning Ireland Network Board member -
Assistive Living and Learning Institute Board member -

Honors and Awards

Date Title Awarding Body
01/01/2009 2009: NALA ACE award winner for Soilse/NUIM Return to Learn
01/01/2010 2010: Aontas STAR award winner.
01/01/2008 2008: Aontas STAR award winner Dublin and Leinster region.
15/03/2024 Aontas National STAR Award Winner Third Level Access and Engagement Aontas


Committee Function From / To
FSS Teaching and Learning Committee Adult Education Rep 23/05/2022 - 06/01/2023
Co Curriculum Comission WP 5 Academic Advisor 29/09/2014 - 22/01/2015
Student Finance Committee Rep. for Part Time Students 01/04/2018 - 06/01/2023
MU Sanctuary Committee member 07/01/2021 - 06/01/2023
PATH 1 TURN TO TEACHING Steering Committee Member 25/10/2016 - 07/02/2018
Age Friendly University Adult Education Rep 12/04/2022 - 06/01/2023


Employer Position From / To
Maynooth University Assistant Lecturer 10/12/2010 - 23/04/2024


Start date Institution Qualification Subject
UCD Group Analytics Foundation Year Group Analytics
17/09/2021 UCD Diploma in Group Work Practice Group Analytic Psychotherapy


Client Description
Government of Ireland Dept. of the Taoiseach North Inner City Task Force

Outreach Activities

Organisation Type Description
Communiversity Civic Society The Communiversity is a first point of contact pre-access programme where people can attend higher education courses in the familiar surroundings of their local libraries. To date Maynooth University has set up Communiversities in Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Monaghan. Each course begins with a taster session at which the tutors outline their planned programme also explaining to the student that they can ask for specific topics or other subjects to be explored. The tutors use short hand-outs on different subjects to stimulate discussion but they are directed by the interests of the group and are encouraged to follow their lead by being flexible with the modules they teach. The use of the public libraries as venues mean that university education can be brought out and delivered to people in their own communities. One of the aims of the project is to de-mystify the idea of higher education in the minds of people who might feel alienated from universities and academics and to date the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive. When asked what they liked most about the course people spoke about the variety of subjects that were covered. They also commented on the fact that, they were not patronised but were being '... taught to think and not being told what to do.' This aspect of critical thinking and self directed learning is of enormous importance for adult learners. The social aspect and the intergenerational make up of the groups play a very significant part towards community development. This project is a good example of what can be achieved through partnership between different sections of the public service in implementing policy for the benefit of wider society. The Communiversity is partnering with the Dept. of History in Maynooth University and SPCM to deliver a series of Local History modules in the JPII Library that is planned to become an annual endeavour. [Link]
Dept. of Adult and Community Education Lifelong Learning/Continuing Education Civic Society Outreach is a core activity in my role of Continuine Education Co-ordinator. I coordinate the NUI Certificate programmes Level 7 and 8 I manage Addiction Studies (6 iterations per year plus the Diploma in Addiction Studies), Disability Studies, Equality Studies, Community Development and Leadership, Creative Writing for Publication, Local History and Psychology (4 iterations per year), Training and Continuing Education (4 iterations per year) and a Diploma in Addiction Studies. I also manage and teach on the university’s Access course ‘Return to Learning’. All of these courses carry 20 ECTS and can be used for the purpose of Recognition of Prior Learning. [Link]

Teaching Interests

I teach the study skills  on both the night-time degree for Adult Students BA Local Studies/Community Studies and the Retun to Learning programme. Teaching adults returning to education or entering university for the first time is immensely rewarding and to witness the journey that people undertake within their first semester let alone the from beginning study to graduation and beyond is an incredible privilege. 

Besides giving people the expected mechanical skills of reading academic texts, note taking, research and writing skills I strive to create a learning environment wherein the student can, through dialogue with their peers and the course material, develop their ability to think critically about the social, political and economic forces that impact upon their lives and reflect upon their own position in relation to these phenomena. Critical reflection in this sense being the impetus for action.

I am also currently teaching first year undergraduate Critical Skills Reflective Practice and Experiential Learning.  The new curriculum has given me the opportunity to engage with a younger aged cohort and use pedagogical methods that I have built up over the years to encourage these students to explore their life world as emerging adults with a critical eye.The Critical Skills modules that I deliver are very much process driven.  They are designed to not so much de-programme Leaving Certificate students as so many critics of the second level exam based system suggest is necessary but to allow space for decompression and personal development. 

Modules I teach: 
NUI Cert. in Return to Learning.
Sk114 Critical Skills: A Social Analysis of Everyday Life, Reflective Practice
SK115 Critical Skills: A Social Analysis of Everyday Life, Experiential Learning.
CM1 Study Skills and Student Support and 

CM40 The Reflective Learner

Modules I co-ordinate as Co-ordinator of Continuing Eudcation are: 
The National University of Ireland Level 7 Certificates (20 ECTS) in: 
Addiction Studies 
Community Education and Equality Studies
Community Development and Leadership 
Creative Writing for Publicaiton 
Disability Studies 
Directing for Theatre
Equality Studies
Local History 
Training and Continuing Education.

Level 8 Cert. in Adult and Community Education (20 ECTS)
Level 8 Dip. in Addiction Studies (40 ECTS)

As manager of the MH803 BA Local Studies / Community Studies I co-ordinate over one hundred modules from the eight different academic deparments involved in delivering this unique modular degree purposely designed for adult students. 

External Collaborators

Name Role Country
Northside Partnership Community Engagement Partner Ireland
European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland Partner in Foundations for Futures Europe Ireland
South City Partnership Communiversity Partner
University of Pécs Partner in Foundations for Futures Europe Hungary
University of Novi Sad Partner in Foundations for Futures Europe
Urkraft Partner in Foundations for Futures Europe Sweden
Dublin City Council Programme Partner
South County Dublin Partnership Partner Ireland
HSE Mid West Community Health Care Education Partner Ireland
County Kildare LEADER Partnership Partner Ireland
Hellenic Anti-Poverty Network Partner in Foundations for Futures Europe Greece
Dublin County Council Public Library Service Partner Ireland