HEA Chief Executive says colleges need to keep focus on targeting disadvantage

Access Policy

Posted: 20 November, 2017

The Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority, Dr. Graham Love, has stated that higher education institutions need to continue to be active both in engaging with disadvantaged communities and in attracting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Dr. Love was speaking at the start of College Awareness Week, which focuses on raising awareness of higher education in communities that don’t have a tradition of going to college.

He said,

“Colleges have made some progress in widening participation rates in all communities but among the least advantaged, it remains limited. There is also a need for higher education institutions to partner more actively with local authorities and with civic society to engage those who feel excluded. College Awareness Week is focused on encouraging access by students from communities where participation in education after second level is particularly low. But college activity needs to be year round as well.”

Dr. Love pointed out that the vision of the National Access Plan 2015-2019 is that the student population in higher education fully reflect the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population : higher education should be available to all individuals independent of socio-economic disadvantage, geographical location or other circumstances.

HEA data shows that we still have some way to go and that some communities in Dublin, as well as elsewhere in the country, continue to have unacceptably low rates of participation in higher education, for example:

o In Dublin 17, Darndale, the rate is just 15% of young people
o In Dublin 10, Ballyfermot, it is 16%
 In the North Inner City, Dublin 1, the rate is 23%
 Across the Liffey in the South Inner City, Dublin 2, it is 26%

The National Access Plan has set targets to increase participation in higher education by students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

As part of the implementation of the National Access Plan, new initiatives to increase access to higher education being supported by Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) funding. The PATH 3 Higher Education Access Fund will support regional clusters of higher education institutions in attracting more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to higher education and will help ensure those students are supported in completing their studies. At least 10% of places will be targeted at lone parents. €7.5m will being allocated through PATH 3 over the next three years.

More: Access, College Awareness Week, Disadvantage, Dr Graham Love