TCD scheme aims to help disadvantaged students
A scheme to assist more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress into the higher professions was announced last night in Trinity College, Dublin, at an event that also marked 20 years of the Trinity access programmes (TAP).
Launching “Pathways to the Professions”, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said one of the important things about the access programme was building confidence.
The programme has gone from strength to strength, she said, “and has genuinely broadened out to become a real access programme”.
Noting that 58 additional lawyers were coming through the programme, she said she didn’t know whether or not to be in awe of the number.
“But maybe as a country we do need a lot more lawyers, because with all the inquiries and investigations which are floating around, it may keep a lot of lawyers in occupations for a long time to come,” Ms Burton said.
Referring to the public debate on the death of Savita Halappanavar, and “the appropriateness and adequacy of the law”, she said there was lot of food for thought for aspiring lawyers in relation to what had happened in recent days.
“I think one of your experiences may well be, I hope, to see the Oireachtas deal with the issues finally, because these issues have been knocking around for the same length of time – in terms of the Supreme Court judgment – as the 20 years of the TAP”
Tom Boland, the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, cited figures showing 60 per cent of new entrants to medicine in 2011-2012 were from the top two socio-economic groups, with only 9 per cent from the groups targeted by the national access office for special support.
The picture was less stark for other disciplines, including law, pharmacy and veterinary medicine; however, courses in these areas registered 40 per cent of all new entrants from the top two socio-economic groups.
He quoted TAP research from 2010 that showed TAP graduates tended to congregate in the education and health sectors.
“Now that may well be true that they are following role models . . . But another slightly more sinister explanation may also exist, which I think we should name. Health and education are very strong areas in the public service – which is noted for recruiting people on merit.
“I wonder is there something going on with the private sector where either prejudice or an old boys’ network operate?” he asked.
Vice-provost and chief academic officer Linda Hogan talked of TAP as “a key part of Trinity’s social mission”. She thanked firms and businesses for their support.
Among the attendance was Pat Burke, a partner with Grant Thornton, which has supported the scheme for five years.