Responding to the Writing Development Needs of Irish Higher Education Students: a Case Study


  • Lawrence Cleary University of Limerick
  • Caroline Graham University of Limerick
  • Catherine Jeanneau University of Limerick
  • Íde O'Sullivan University of Limerick


academic writing, writing centre, writing pedagogy, writing needs, writing support


In contrast to other countries, particularly the USA, systematic writing support for students at Irish higher education institutions has until recently been restricted to ad hoc interventions. However, there is now a growing awareness of the need to adopt a systematic approach to writing support for both undergraduate and postgraduate students and an increasing recognition of the value of such support in fostering meta-cognitive awareness among writers so that they not only produce better written texts but develop a greater consciousness of the processes leading to them (North 1984). The main aim of this paper is to report on a study that inquires into student and staff attitudes towards academic writing and into the specific writing-related needs of students at one Irish university, the University of Limerick (UL), in order to justify what we feel to be an appropriate response to a multiplicity of writing-related needs in the Irish context. The paper reports on the two main phases of the project, namely the research phase that would inform the response adopted by the University (2005-2007) and the action-response phase which outlines the course of action taken by the University to respond to the writing needs of its students (2007 to date), including collaboration with other institutions. The primary research on which this paper reports highlights an awareness of the importance of writing skills for the development of students’ academic and professional lives, yet it also draws attention to the lack of support for the development of student writing. Having investigated the many options available, this paper concludes that a formal writing centre has an important role to play in providing a coordinated and systematic approach to the development of writing. The creation of a writing centre is an expression of the recognition of the centrality of writing to teaching and learning at higher education and the importance of writing as a means of learning.

Author Biographies

Lawrence Cleary, University of Limerick

Research Officer, Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre

Caroline Graham, University of Limerick

Director, University of Limerick Language Centre

Catherine Jeanneau, University of Limerick

Manager Language Support Unit

Íde O'Sullivan, University of Limerick

Research Officer, Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre






Research Articles