An international conference, ‘How Equal? Access to Higher Education in Ireland’, to be held tomorrow in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham will hear how increasing educational opportunities are a key element of our recovery as a country.
Organised by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and to be opened by the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn TD, delegates will discuss ways in which our education system can support up to 30% of our citizens who do not yet benefit sufficiently from the education system. This rich seam of latent potential includes people with disabilities; the 10% of our population who were not born in Ireland but who have settled here; young people who drop out of school early and the large number of people over 40 who have no higher education qualifications. By supporting and enabling all of these groups we will add enormously to our society, culture and economy.
‘It is essential that everyone in Ireland enjoys equal access to higher education. Highly qualified graduates will play a key role in Ireland’s economic recovery in the future and it is vital that the ideas generated at this conference are enthusiastically embraced and acted upon” Minister Quinn said. “Ireland has the potential to develop as a world-class cluster for knowledge industries. The reforms I have initiated in the higher education sector have the potential to deliver great benefits for this country and its citizens in the years ahead. “
The reform of Higher education in Ireland is already underway, and both the Minister and the HEA identify how equitable access to educational excellence provides a vital building block. Tom Boland, Chief Executive of the HEA commits to putting into use all of the levers available to the HEA, including funding, to achieve Ireland’s policy goal of equity of access to higher education.
‘We are currently working on a new national access plan’ said Mr Boland, ‘when published in early 2014 it will set out a vigorous roadmap to fully connect all of our people to education excellence. Tackling barriers to education among a range of underrepresented groups requires us to deploy our resources differently. Technology makes this increasingly possible, bringing into reach an open world of education where classrooms are defined by bridges that connect rather than walls that divide. In this way access becomes less a lottery and more a matter of choice.’
The one-day conference will take place in the historic Royal Hospital Kilmainham, and will also highlight the progress that has been achieved. The conference provides a timely opportunity to discuss the extent and nature of that progress and to gather energy for the next phase in implementation and planning. The 200+ delegates will include a large student cohort, representatives of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) as well as people working on access in the higher education system, the disability support group AHEAD; the National Disability Federation; Dyslexia Ireland; Qualifications and Quality Ireland (QQI); Mature Students Ireland; and primary level, second level and further education representatives. International speakers include Professor Angela Thody of Lincoln University, UK.
Malcolm Byrne, Head of Communications, HEA (086) 2237102