Archived Page

Please note: The HECUA ‘Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland’ Programme has now relocated from the UNESCO Centre at the Coleraine campus to INCORE at the Magee campus. These pages are now archived (September 2013).


An Invitation to Learn With Us

The HECUA ‘Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland’ Programme has been a central part of our work at the UNESCO Centre for over a decade. The Programme provides a unique insight into understanding the conflict in Northern Ireland, giving students a chance to fully immerse themselves in today’s Northern Ireland; learning about our history, working in our present, and helping to build the foundations of our future.

Our programme introduces students to the realities of “The Troubles”, meeting actors from all sides, visiting places resonating in history, and learning about the conflict that defined Northern Ireland for a generation. Meeting people directly affected by some of the darkest days of our past and working with those helping to build a brighter future, students will also have direct access to senior politicians in both jurisdictions in Ireland; men and women who negotiated the peace and who are now entrusted with the process of reconciliation between our divided communities. Through this process students will examine the historical, political and religious roots of the conflict and apply theoretical knowledge through projects, internships and field work.

For students, the experience of living and working in Northern Ireland for a semester will not only help to build educational knowledge, but will also enable students to grow and develop personally; meeting new people, facing new challenges, and forming many new opinions. We hope that you will take the opportunity to learn with us.

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The Course

A Brief Overview

The ‘Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland’ Programme is an investigation of a society’s transition from conflict to a sustainable democracy; a transition which continues to be a fragile and difficult process.

The programme:

  • Examines the conflict in Northern Ireland from multiple perspectives
  • Analyses Northern Ireland’s resources for building an inclusive and sustainable democracy

Students participate in lectures, discussions, field experiences, and an integrating weekly seminar. A deeper understanding and application of theory is achieved through engagement in a seven week internship placement in a setting that focuses on one or more of the key themes:

  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Equality and Social Justice
  • Democracy and Active Participation
  • Human Rights and Social Responsibility

The programme is designed to engage students in a dynamic learning experience that will facilitate a critical understanding of conflict and its impact on society in addition to a rigorous evaluation of the role of citizens as agents of social change.


  1. Develop an understanding of the Northern Ireland conflict, its causes and effects
  2. Critically examine various approaches to social change in Northern Ireland
  3. Generate critical thinking on social, civic and political issues
  4. Develop an understanding of global concerns and parallels

The Modules

There are three modules offered within the programme:

Module 1:
Understanding the Politics of the Northern Ireland Conflict
The focus of this module is on promoting awareness and understanding of the local and global implications of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Students deepen their understanding of the characteristics and constituent parts of the conflict.
Module 2:
Building a Sustainable Democracy
This module has a particular focus on promoting awareness and understanding of the actions that can be taken by people in the pursuit of peace and an inclusive, sustainable and effective democracy.
Module 3:
Internship Placement and Seminar
The ‘Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland’ Internship is a means by which students develop skills and acquire new insights into how different facets of society in Northern Ireland are working towards the development of a sustainable and effective democracy.

Further information on the Programme can be found on the HECUA website.

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The Student Experience

Student Profiles

See what past Northern Ireland students say about the program:

Image of Matthew Berg

Matthew Berg

University of Minnesota

Spring 2011

Image of Olivia Cox

Olivia Cox

Denison University

Spring 2012

Image of Kaitlyn Egan

Kaitlyn Egan

University of Minnesota

Spring 2011

Image of Kelly Krinn

Kelly Krinn

St. Olaf College

Spring 2011

Image of Philip Lomneth

Philip Lomneth

St. Olaf College

Spring 2011

Image of Sara O’Neill

Sara O’Neill

University of St. Thomas

Spring 2011

Image of Natalie Pavlatos

Natalie Pavlatos

Macalester College

Spring 2011

Image of Elizabeth Pikula

Elizabeth Pikula

St. Catherine University

Spring 2011

Image of Gwynneth Thompson

Gwynneth Thompson

Gustavus Adolphus College

Spring 2011

Image of Arianna Williams

Arianna Williams

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Spring 2012

Image of Raymond Wilson

Raymond Wilson

Denison University

Spring 2011

Image of Jackson Zoellner

Jackson Zoellner

Gustavus Adolphus College

Spring 2012

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Programme Director

Nigel Glenny


Lecturer and
HECUA Programme Director


University of Ulster
Co Londonderry
BT48 7JL
Northern Ireland


+44 (0)28 7012 4590



Keep in Touch

News and views relating to our HECUA programme can be found on our HECUA Blog:

To read our latest news and views as they are posted to our Blog:

Join the conversation:

Related Links


  • You learn from not only professors but from your classmates, from the people you meet on the streets, from people in your internships and you also work directly alongside people who work towards social change, which helps you to learn practical ways of bringing out change;
    you experience (academics/theories, etc) directly instead of learning about it from a book.

    Student Evaluation

  • I loved this experience.
    So much of our learning process was spent out in the community and speaking with real people who had real experiences in what we were learning about.

    Student Evaluation

  • HECUA strives to give students a hands on approach to working with social justice.
    For me it was an experience I would never find anywhere else and that will stick with me because I actually got to meet with people involved in the conflict and the peace process.

    Student Evaluation

  • HECUA learning is about using your head and your heart, about locating your own position in relation to what (or whom) you are studying, about self‑reflection and empathy.
    I loved this approach because it is how I learn best – by connecting to people, learning by doing and being given a chance to think about my own place in all of it.

    Student Evaluation

  • I learned to really connect to what I was learning on a personal level.
    I was expecting to be detached and analyze everything with a very logical viewpoint, but I was instead surprised by how emotionally invested I became.
    It was a very positive experience for me.

    Student Evaluation

  • It’s like walking through your textbook.
    You live in the experience and history rather than just learn about it.

    Student Evaluation