Access to third-level education

Sir, – It comes as no surprise that "Wealthy areas keep strong advantage in accessing third-level places" (News, 8January 8th).

Despite the introduction of “free” second-level education in 1967 and the abolition of third-level fees in 1995, access to third-level education in Ireland continues to be contingent on socio-economic status.

The response of the Government to educational disadvantage has been to adopt a policy of positive discrimination, whereby additional resources are allocated to schools which cater for a high number of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds.

The Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme was introduced in 2005 as a formal, systematic response to educational disadvantage, providing a range of evidence-based supports to target educational disadvantage, and while improvements have resulted since its introduction, the evidence is that our education system continues to fail many young people with serious consequences for them and society generally.


We have just concluded an 18-month study on Deis schools which indicates that the link between poverty and poor educational outcomes is both strong and complex and that the education system continues to perpetuate and legitimate inequality, reproducing intergenerational advantages for dominant social groups. – Yours, etc,



School of Education,

University College Dublin,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – I’m still trying to get my head around the amazing achievement of the 74 high scoring schools recorded, according to the feeder tables in last Friday’s edition of The Irish Times, as sending more pupils to third-level colleges last year than they actually had on their roll book! One school managed to send 160 per cent of the 10 pupils doing the Leaving Cert last year to third level!

As explained in the article, it seems students can be counted in more than one school for accepting a place in a third level college. Not only that, but schools can be credited for students who did the Leaving Cert in previous years, as if they actually belonged to last year’s cohort.

This data is flawed and should not be used.

What makes it even more questionable is that it excludes all those students who happily opt for apprenticeships and other very worthwhile careers that require training routes to qualification, other than third-level colleges. – Yours, etc,



Cois Fharraige,

Co na Gaillimhe.