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Dr. Anna Kelly


University College Dublin




access, inclusion, higher education, university, inclusive design

Thesis Title

An Analysis of the Implementation of
National Access Policy to Integrate and
Mainstream Equality of Access in Irish
Universities - through the Lens of Inclusive


This is a study of the implementation of the national access policy objective to mainstream and embed equality of access into everyday life of higher education institutions (HEA, 2004a, 2008, 2015c). The research population comprises the senior university and student union leaders in Ireland’s seven universities.

The theoretical field within which this thesis is located is the field of Inclusive Design for Education, engaging between the fields of Higher Education Policy Access Policy, Policy Implementation and Higher Education Practice. It draws on the work of Van Meter and Van Horn (1975) to focus on the ‘disposition of implementers’, and uses the lens of inclusive design to assess the awareness and understanding of the implementation of access policy. A pragmatic methodological approach, relying on the ‘traditional’ mixed methods model is used to collect quantitative and qualitative data.

This work makes an original contribution to knowledge, gained through an analysis of the views of senior leaders, resulting in an Institutional Inclusion Typology, and an original framework - Inclusive Design Framework to Support the Embedding and Mainstreaming of Equality of Access in Universities.
This study found early signs of mainstreaming and embedding equality of access. It also found an absence of institution-wide policies and practices to foster and inculcate inclusion and diversity on a university-wide basis.

Irish Universities are slowly evolving into inclusive institutions; pockets of good institutional practice are evident. In this study, the term ‘inclusive design’ refers to a design approach to ensure that equality of access is infused and embedded throughout higher education institutions and, as a result, is promoted, supported and the responsibility of all. Despite the early signs of mainstreaming and embedding equality of access; national access policy remains to be fully realised.



Dr Anna M. Kelly is Director, Access & Lifelong Learning in University College Dublin (UCD), where she leads ‘University for All’, a strategic whole-institution initiative to mainstream and embed access and inclusion.

Anna’s doctorate is in Inclusive Design in Higher Education, where she investigated the implementation of national policy to mainstream access in higher education and gathered the views of the leaders of Ireland’s seven universities. Her research interests are in the areas of organisational change in the fields of access, widening participation, mainstreaming and inclusion.

She holds several additional roles, including, Chair of Leinster Cluster of six higher education institutions working to address access and inclusion, including Trinity College, National College of Art & Design, the Institute of Art, Design & Technology, the Marino Institute of Education, and RCSI. She represents UCD on the Irish Universities’ Association (IUA) Access Steering Group and chairs the sub-groups on supplementary admissions routes,, and part-time flexible higher education.

Dr Kelly is also affiliated with the UCD Inclusive Design Research Centre, which promotes research and scholarship in the interdisciplinary domain of Inclusive Design.

Previously, she held a range of senior positions in further education, access and diversity fields, including Director, Curriculum & Quality Assurance in FÁS, the State Training & Employment Authority (now Solus). She was Regional Director with the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB), Ireland’s statutory body for services for people with disabilities.

She is a Home Economics teacher, holds a Master’s Degree in Education from University of Manchester, and a Master’s Degree in Management Practice from Trinity College, Dublin.

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