Students with their arms around each others shoulders looking into the sun wearing graduation gowns and caps

HEA welcomes the announcement that institutions to benefit from €6m funding for disadvantaged students to access higher education

Access Policy

Posted: 30 December, 2017

Ministers also announce allocation of further €.3m to encourage diversity in teaching profession

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D. and Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today announced the institutions to benefit from the €6m “1916 Bursary Fund” and the quantity of bursaries to be allocated to each over the course of the next three years. The Ministers also announced the allocation of a further €.3m funding for initiatives to widen access to initial teacher training courses.

The 1916 Bursary Fund will support 600 students over the course of three years. These students will be from target groups who are currently under-represented in higher education and the fund will provide them with a bursary of €5,000 per academic year to support them in their studies. A significant proportion of these students will be lone parents and those studying both part-time and full-time are eligible to apply. An individual can be in receipt of both a 1916 bursary and a SUSI grant, if they are eligible.

The Ministers also announced the allocation of €.3m funding for initiatives to widen access to initial teacher training courses to encourage and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study to be teachers. This will fund an additional 70 students to become teachers and will bring the total investment in these initiatives to €2.7m.

The Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education system the best in Europe by 2026, clearly outlines the Government’s commitment to breaking down barriers to education and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their full potential. Today’s announcements will not only support under-represented groups to access higher education, but will also encourage those students to become teachers themselves, thus becoming role models for others.

Announcing the funding, Minister Bruton said “Ensuring those who come to education at a disadvantage are fully supported is a key priority of mine as Minister. If we want our Education system to be the best, it must be as inclusive as possible. This funding is one of a range of measures we are taking to ensure that this is the case. We currently provide over €300m in SUSI grants to students every year for example, thus ensuring nearly 45% of undergraduate students receive state funding to support their studies. I’m particularly happy that we are supporting people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become teachers, thus becoming role models for the rest of their community.”

In announcing the initiative, Minister Mitchell O’Connor commented:

“This represents the first and second strand of PATH funding and fulfils a commitment in the National Access Plan, 2015-19, and it is also one of the actions in the Action Plan for Education.

Today’s announcement will help more people from disadvantaged groups to get to third level, which is a major goal of the National Access Plan and the Action Plan for Education. A priority for me as Minister of State for Higher Education is to provide target groups with more opportunities to reach their potential. They broaden the options available to students from the target groups by supporting participation on a part-time basis. Initiatives such as these which have the potential to really help to break the cycle of disadvantage for many communities.”

Note for editors

The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 (‘National Access Plan’) was published in December 2015. The overall vision informing the goals, objectives and actions of the Plan is to ensure that the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education at all levels reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population. The National Access Plan contains a number of targets to increase participation by specific categories of students. Target groups include entrants from under-represented socio-economic groups and communities; entrants with disabilities; mature entrants and members of the Irish Traveller community and students entering on the basis of a further education award.

Subsequent to the launch of the National Access Plan, the Department established the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund. This Fund comprises dedicated funding to support access to higher education at regional cluster level. The funding will be allocated on a competitive basis to the clusters of higher education to support particular priority areas as determined by the Department.

PATH 1 Initial teacher training

PATH 1 supports a commitment in the National Access Plan, 2015-19, and the Action Plan for Education. The objective of PATH 1 is to increase access to initial teacher education for students from the target groups identified in the National Access Plan.

The Department, through the HEA, invited the six centres of teaching excellence, in partnership with relevant local stakeholders, to compete for PATH 1 funding by submitting proposals in accordance with a set of prescribed criteria (see section 3 below).

The six centres of teaching excellence are as follows:

University of Limerick/ Mary Immaculate College/ Limerick Institute of Technology

  1. National University of Ireland, Galway/ St. Angela’s College
  2. University College Cork
  3. Maynooth University
  4. Dublin City University/ St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra/ Mater Dei / Church of Ireland College of Education
  5. University College Dublin/Trinity College Dublin/National College of Art and Design/ Marino Institute of Education

In April 2017 the Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton T.D. approved funding to five centres of teaching excellence and €2.4m was allocated to fund these initiatives.

The sixth centre – UCD/TCD, NCAD and MIE has now been approved for funding and was allocated €0.3m for their initiative under PATH 1.

The overall allocation for PATH Strand 1 is €2.7m


The Minister for Education and Skills announced in Budget 2017 a new 1916 Bursary Fund to commemorate the centenary of 1916 as part of the overall package of access measures to promote participation by under-represented groups in higher education.

Consistent with the vision, goals and target groups in the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (NAP) 2015-19, the 1916 Bursary Fund will provide financial support to students identified by clusters of higher education institutions as being most economically disadvantaged from specified target groups, and it will complement existing student supports and access initiatives.

These Bursaries differ from existing bursaries in a number of respects, in that they are targeted at non-traditional entry and can support undergraduate study on either a full or part-time basis. Each bursary will be in the amount of €5,000 per annum (and could be on top of a SUSI grant if the person qualifies for a SUSI grant). Funding will be initially provided for the award of bursaries to 200 students for the duration of their studies in each of the next 3 academic years, commencing in 2017/18, 600 students in total. The Bursary Fund will commemorate the centenary of 1916 and underlines the Government’s commitment to the type of equality of opportunity envisaged by the 1916 signatories. 40 of the “1916 bursaries” will be earmarked for socio-economically disadvantaged lone parents.

Each of the six regional clusters of higher education institutions (HEIs) were invited by the HEA to submit proposals under the Strand 2 of the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) and these proposals were assessed by an independent assessment panel in late November. The six clusters are as follows:


  • University College Cork
  • Cork IT
  • IT Tralee
  • Waterford IT
  • IT Carlow


  • University of Limerick
  • Mary Immaculate College
  • Limerick IT


  • Galway-Mayo IT
  • IT Sligo
  • Letterkenny IT
  • NUI Galway (incorporating St. Angela’s College)

Dublin / Leinster Pillar I

  • University College Dublin
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • National College of Art and Design
  • Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

Dublin / Leinster Pillar II

Midlands, East and North Dublin (MEND)

  • Dublin City University
  • Dundalk IT
  • Maynooth University
  • Athlone IT

Technological University for Dublin (TU4D)

  • Dublin Institute of Technology
  • IT Tallaght
  • IT Blanchardstown

Funding will be initially provided for the award of 200 bursaries in each of the next 3 academic years, commencing in 2017/18.

No of bursaries allocated for the 2017/18 academic year

PATH Strand 2: 1916 Bursary Fund
  Number of Bursaries
  2017/18 Number   of which will be for lone parents each year
Leinster   Pillar I 40 8
Leinster   Pillar II – TU4D 25 5
Mid-West 35 7
South 35 7
North-West 25 5
Leinster   Pillar II – Mend 40 8
OVERALL 200 40

Bursaries will be awarded to students who have been identified by their HEI as meeting the following eligibility criteria:

Student must be from one of the following target groups

  • Lone parents (at least 20% of the bursaries must be targeted at lone parents)
  • First time, mature student entrants
  • Students with a disability – particularly students with a physical/mobility impairment, students are who deaf/hard of hearing and students who are blind or have a visual impairment
  • Travellers
  • Further education award holders
  • Ethnic minorities (including programme refugees)
  • All recipients will have to be socio-economically disadvantaged regardless of the target group.
  • Bursaries may be provided to full- or part-time students. It is expected that a number of the bursaries will be provided to students studying on a part-time basis.
  • Bursaries will be available to undergraduates who are progressing to higher education for the first time and to undergraduate students who are currently in the system.
  • Students must be attending a full-time or part-time course that meets the guidelines of the fund. Courses attended must be an undergraduate course in a publicly funded institution that: (a) take not less than two years to complete, and (b) on the successful completion of which a student is awarded a major higher education and training award at level 6 or above on the National Framework of Qualifications.

The following conditions will also apply:

  • Each bursary will be in the amount of €5,000 per annum. This applies to both full and part-time students.
  • Bursaries may be approved for study across all disciplines. There will be no restriction on programme of study.
  • Students are not entitled to receive the 1916 Bursary in conjunction with any other bursary or scholarship.
  • Students will be entitled to hold the 1916 Bursary and the student grant simultaneously, where they meet the eligibility conditions of the student grant scheme. The 1916 Bursary will be an income disregard for the purposes of ‘reckonable income’ in the student grant scheme.
  • It will be a condition of funding that necessary data sharing arrangements are in place, subject to data protection considerations.
  • A bursary will be awarded for the normal duration of an undergraduate programme, subject to continued compliance with the bursary guidelines.

Successful HEIs will be responsible for selecting the students to be awarded bursaries and will be responsible for the implementation of the Bursary scheme according to the guidelines set out by the Department of Education and Skills/ HEA. HEIs will be required to ensure that students selected by them for an award of a bursary meet the eligibility criteria outlined above.

More: Access, PATH

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