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AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
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Student Unions, Clubs & Societies

We’ve got all you need to know about your Student’s Union and some tips on getting involved with clubs and societies.

Student Unions

Every college has a Student Union which is the representative body for the students of the college. You automatically become a member when you first registered with the college. Depending your college, the Student Union can have two full-time officers, the President and the Vice-President (who can act as the Welfare and/or Education Officer), and a range of part-time officers from Disability Officers to Equality Officers.

What do Student Unions do?

As the students' representative body, the Student Union is involved in many student issues concerning both its own college and students' rights in general. The Student Union is also a valuable source of information on many issues ranging from accommodation to financial or welfare advice and often run awareness weeks. As a student of the college, you have the right to run for election and to vote for Student Union officers, thereby having a say in how the union represents your interests.

Most Student Unions have their own dedicated website or social media page so make sure you check them out to stay updated with the latest events and news.

Clubs & Societies

Your social life is just as important as your academic pursuits and it can improve when you join a college club or society as they provide a good opportunity to meet new people outside of your class and to pursue various interests. They are run by students, for students and usually there is a wide variety of clubs and societies to choose from.

Types of Clubs & Societies

There are all kinds of sporting clubs; hockey, canoeing, fencing, archery, soccer, Gaelic games etc. There are even sci-fi or darts clubs. There are also societies that cater for drama, debating, music (which organises the orchestra, band and choir), etc … Along with the ones mentioned, are societies for each subject area; German, Agriculture, Engineering, Medical, Philosophy, etc…

There are also action groups which have their own college sections like St. Vincent De Paul, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and college action/ social support groups like those for students with disabilities and mature students. Each political party in Ireland may also be represented.

Remember, your college may not have all of the clubs or societies listed above, but it could provide you with a good opportunity to set up your own club or society!

Getting Involved

Registering for clubs and societies takes place during the early weeks of the first term (commonly called Freshers’ Week or Orientation Week) and there usually is a very small fee to join.

When you have joined a club and/or a society go along to the first couple of meetings for a taste of what it is like. Societies meet on a regular basis, holding weekly coffee afternoons and organising evening socials, debates etc … Sport clubs meet regularly to train for competitions and also have their own social occasions.

Benefits & Advantages

Joining a club or society is not only a way to make new friends and to improve your social life but it can also provide you with new skills, knowledge and an opportunity to try something new! When you join a society or club, you may have a chance to be part of the organising committee; this can give you additional skills such as event-planning, organising, fundraising, budgeting, PR etc… which you could use in any job and employers would value. If you are just simply a member of a club or society, it can also benefit you in learning about issues such as health and safety, finance and develop your interpersonal skills.

Disability Supports for Clubs & Societies

Before you join a club or society, it is worth asking the committee some accessibility questions should you require it. For example, find out whether the events/meetings located in an accessible building if you have mobility issues or use a wheelchair and whether they can offer you some additional support while attending events.

Where a student with a disability joins a sports club i.e. canoeing, they may also encounter difficulties due to a lack of specific equipment or insurance risks. In the event that this happens, it is important to talk to the captain of the club, as a compromise may be reached and alternative arrangements put in place.