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Deaf Studies

B.St.Su.; 20 places

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What is Deaf studies?

The Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College affords students the opportunity to develop insights into, and genuine appreciation for the culture, contributions, and contemporary issues related to Deaf people in Ireland and worldwide. The undergraduate programme is the only one of its kind in Ireland. Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the indigenous language of the Deaf Community in Ireland and is the working language at the Centre for Deaf Studies.

ISL is a language like any other language, but it happens to use signs rather than sounds. There are many different sign languages in the world in the same way as there are different spoken languages. ISL is one of the many signed languages recognised by European Institutions and Northern Ireland. During the four year course students develop fluency in ISL. As a student you may choose to specialise as an ISL/English Interpreter, an ISL teacher or to focus on Deaf Studies. The coursework also provides information on the historical and cultural background of the Irish Deaf community with particular emphasis on the perspective of Deaf people living in a hearing society. Students entering the Deaf Studies programme will explore a range of educational, social, cultural, linguistic, and psychological issues and their application to Deaf people, as individuals, as a community, and as a linguistic and cultural minority.

The multi-disciplinary approach to your studies is led by a strong academic team, many of whom are Deaf. It will provide in-depth training that prepares undergraduates for a number of exciting career options working with Deaf people, in education, community and a range of other service settings e.g., as a disability officer, resource officer, research assistant or as an administrator in Deaf community organisations. With this foundation, students frequently go on to postgraduate study.

Deaf Studies: The course for you?

Deaf Studies is the right course for you if…

  • You are interested in studying Irish Sign Language (ISL), Deaf culture and aspects of the Deaf community
  • You wish to acquire an understanding of the Deaf community as a part of human diversity
  • You wish to spend your professional or social life after graduation in the Deaf community, or to make further contributions in a chosen academic discipline
  • You are hearing, Deaf or hard of hearing – all are encouraged to apply and no prior knowledge of sign language is required

Deaf Studies @ Trinity

The Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College has an international reputation for its work: we bring approaches from across many disciplines (linguistics, equality studies, psychology, education, disability studies, gender studies, interpreting studies, social policy and digital humanities) to bear on our work with Deaf communities. We engage closely with the Irish Deaf community and students will have the opportunity to learn from many of the world’s leading scholars in this discipline who collaborate with CDS staff.

Our curriculum is comprehensive, innovative and exciting. Our expert faculty guide students on their journey into the “Deaf World”, encouraging students to use their budding sign language skills to engage with the local Deaf community. Students at CDS also have opportunities to undertake research projects in areas that have not yet been tackled, in the knowledge that their findings really help document the contemporary experience of the Irish Deaf Community.

Graduate skills and career opportunities

Graduates frequently work in Deaf organisations, for example as a resource officer or combined with another skill set, such as teaching, ISL interpreting, child care, social work, public service bodies, the Civil Service or the media. There is also scope for further study or research in areas such as linguistics, communications, anthropology, multiculturalism, gender studies or law.

Your degree and what you’ll study

The programme in Deaf Studies draws on a core faculty with interests in Irish Sign Language and Deaf Studies, as well as other faculty within the University and the School of Linguistics Speech and Communication Sciences, with expertise in bilingualism, biculturalism, reading, literacy, linguistics and applied linguistics, cognitive and language development, language teaching, special education, and counseling. This course gives an in-depth understanding of the Irish Deaf community and of the experience of Deaf people internationally, historically and in contemporary society. Core courses detailing the history, education, literature and language wof the Deaf will be taught by both Deaf and hearing staff.

ISL is studied across the programme. In years two and three, themes such as Deaf education, Deaf people in the media, the legal and political standing of signed languages and access to critical public health services are explored, along with understanding of the structure of ISL, the sociolinguistic context and the path to acquisition of a signed language for deaf children. For ISL/English interpreting students, translation theory and the practical skills of interpreting, guided by ethical practice, are emphasized in years three and four.

For students taking the ISL teaching route, aspects of the psychology of education are introduced, along with guidance on planning and implementing a curriculum and assessing student performance. Students in the third and fourth year complete an independent research project.

Across the four years of the degree you will develop a high level of competency in ISL skills. Language teaching is mapped to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR, Council of Europe), so you will be able to map your progress against your knowledge of other languages. Coursework is intended to develop performance and proficiency in Irish Sign Language. Students will also participate in field experiences, enabling them to put into practice knowledge gained through academic courses. Competence in Irish Sign Language is fundamental to gaining an in-depth understanding of the Deaf Community, and is a requirement of the programme.


Theoretical courses introduce you to aspects of language acquisition, linguistics, sociolinguistics, social policy, and social studies. Each theoretical course involves two hours of lecture time per week plus an expectation of self-study.


The course employs a wide range of teaching, learning and assessment strategies. Both continuous assessment and end of year exams are undertaken across the four years. The range and diversity of assessment formats account for varying student learning styles.


Students undertake practical placements in the third year and whilst students are usually placed in an Irish organisation, it is possible, by special arrangement, to arrange a placement abroad.


Further information and contact details
Centre for Deaf Studies
School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin


Tel: +353 1 896 1560

What our graduates say

Jenny Healy, Dublin

“I graduated from the Centre for Deaf Studies in 2015. Looking back at my time spent in Trinity I feel quite fortunate to have been a student there. I made friends for life and gained the knowledge, tools and confidence needed to find my dream job after university. I am now working as an Irish Sign Language teacher, which is an exciting and fulfilling job that allows you to work with both adults and kids.”

What our current students say

Kate Privett, 3rd year Co. Wicklow

"Since I was accepted into Deaf Studies 3 years ago, I have been immersed into a brand new culture and language that I have fallen in love with. I am currently studying under the interpreting strand, one of three available in the course. Although it can be stressful, it is extremely rewarding and I am now working towards a career as a Irish Sign Language Interpreter, and hope to further my studies in the future."

Course Options



Number of Places


CAO code (Central Applications Office code) is


Admission Requirements

For general admission requirements please click here

Special Entry Requirements

Leaving Certificate





In a language other than English

Advanced GCE (A Level):

Grade C

English Literature (A or B) or English Language (A or B)


Grade C

In a language other than English



To apply to this course, click on the relevant Apply Link below

EU Applicants

Read the information about how to apply, then apply directly to CAO.

Non-EU Applicants

  • Deaf Studies, 4 years full-time Closing Date: 30/JUN/2018
  • Advanced Entry Applications

    Read the information about how to apply for Advanced Entry, then select the link below to apply.

    CAO code (Central Applications Office code) is