Plan to increase access to third level for 1,500 poorer students

Some 90 per cent of those from affluent areas go to college, 15 per cent do so from poorer areas

A Government plan to be published on Wednesday aims to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at third level.

A Government plan to be published on Wednesday aims to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at third level.

 

A new Government plan published on Wednesday aims to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at third level by 1,500 over the next three years.

At present more than 90 per cent of students from affluent parts of the capital such as Dublin 6 and Dublin 4 go to third level, compared to about 15 per cent in disadvantaged areas.

The three-year plan seeks to increases these numbers, along with under-represented groups such as those with disabilities and mature students who have never been to college.

For example, just 30 Travellers currently attend higher education. The plan aims to increase that number to 80 by 2019.

It also seeks to increase the number of students from unskilled backgrounds as well as students progressing from further education into higher education by 1,500.

Despite the introduction of “free fees” 20 years ago, and a range of access plans, research indicates there has been no significant narrowing in the participation rate across the social divide.

Ms O’Sullivan, however, said the new access plans aims to mainstream the “access agenda” so responsibility for promoting greater diversity extends becomes the responsibility of everyone working in higher education institutions.

The plan also seeks to empower students in the development of access policy, and to strengthen the links between further and higher education, she said.

“Working together we will ensure that the appropriate supports are in place to make third level a realistic option for previously under-represented groups in our society,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

“This will have benefits for the students themselves, their families and communities, as well as our wider economy and society.”

The new plan will also target the issue of non-completion within higher education institutions.

It also aims to increase the proportion of students from poorer backgrounds such as non-manual workers from 23 to 30 per cent, and semi or unskilled worker groups by 26 to 35 per cent.

The target for transition from further education to higher education is 10 per cent, up from 6 per cent.

For students with disabilities, the plan envisages student numbers as a per centage of all new entrants to higher education rising from 6 to 8 per cent.

The 2015-2019 plan was drawn up by the Higher Education Authority and the Department of The Education.

Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, said new funding will make an important contribution in achieving the ambitious targets.

“More importantly it will support better opportunities for many thousands more students over the coming years,” he said.

Speaking at the launch Tánaiste, Joan Burton said society had everything to gain and nothing to lose by increasing levels of participation among all citizens.

“This new plan offers us an ambitious but realistic opportunity to focus on that important goal,” she said.

“The Government will not be found wanting in its commitment to this plan and I know from my engagement with education partners that they share this ambition.”