In 2006, €27,000 was awarded to Caroline Graham, Director, University of Limerick (UL) Language Centre, and Dr. Angela Chambers, Professor of Applied Languages, to develop a number of Writing Centre activities and an academic business plan for the creation of a Writing Centre in UL. Subsequent to that initial award, Sarah Moore, Dean of UL’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, assisted with the expansion of the UL application to take advantage of the newly announced Higher Education Authority (HEA), Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) context. Subsequently, UL was successfully awarded a 2.5 year, €250,000 budget to fund the creation of the Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre. An inter-institutional initiative based in UL, serving as a nexus of writing activities at four institutions in the Shannon Region, the Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre won its award on the strength of its recognition of the centrality of writing to teaching and learning in higher education and the importance of writing for not only the dissemination, but also the discovery and creation of knowledge. Seeing the great value of the Writing Centre to the furtherance of many of the university’s strategic goals and envisaging the centre’s eventual value to the wider off-campus community, the university’s administration mainstreamed the Writing Centre at the end of its SIF contract in 2009, placing it under the auspices of the Centre for Teaching and Learning and assuming responsibility for its financial support.
Today, the re-titled Regional Writing Centre, UL, continues in its support of undergraduate and postgraduate student writers and collaboration with faculty to develop their own writing and to expand writing-based curriculum innovations. Since its inception in 2007, over 75 key writing-enhancement programmes, attended by approximately 15,000 participants from across the region, were offered by the Regional Writing Centre, including the following:
- Design, delivery and development of modules in writing
- Integration of writing into course support and curriculum development: Writing to Learn and Writing in Disciplines
- Expansion of the one-to-one Peer-tutoring in Academic Writing initiative to undergraduate programmes in all four Faculties (currently, the module is taken up only by Humanities students)
- Online resources, including How I Write, Ireland interviews on video, with transcripts and with Writing-to-Learn prompts for subject specialists who wish to develop writing in their discipline
- Secondary School Essay Writing Competitions
The Regional Writing Centre is now seen as a centre for excellence in the pedagogy of academic and professional writing development across Ireland and throughout Europe, as evidenced by the successful tender to host EATAW 2011, the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing conference, which welcomed 300 international delegates to the Limerick in June 2011.
While writing centres have flourished in American universities since the late 1960s, the Regional Writing Centre is the first of its kind in Ireland. The value of the Centre is its contribution to the academic success and future professional development of students and staff at UL and its aspirations for writing development for the region.