National Access Plan: A Strategic Action Plan for Equity of Access, Participation and Success in Higher Education 2022-2028

Equity of access to higher education is a fundamental principle of Irish education policy, and one that has been endorsed by successive governments in policy statements and commitments over the past thirty years.

The fourth National Access Plan: A Strategic Action Plan for Equity of Access, Participation and Success in Higher Education 2022-2028, to be known as the ‘National Access Plan’, was published in August 2022. This Plan follows the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 and the Progress Review of 2018, which extended the objectives of the third Plan to 2021.

The National Access Plan continues and builds on the vision of previous plans and ambitions for a more inclusive and diverse student population in higher education. The ambition of the new National Access Plan extends beyond access to a greater focus on participation and student success. The two overarching ambitions of this Plan are:

  1. that the higher education student body, at all levels and across all programmes, reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population, and
  2. that our higher education institutions are inclusive, universally designed environments which support student success and outcomes, equity and diversity.

Widespread consultation took place with stakeholders within the education system, across government, in social inclusion and community organisations, and people with direct personal experience of marginalisation. Data was sought from multiple sources and rigorous analysis was used to ensure the Plan has a firm footing. More information on the consultation, including submissions made and an outcomes report, can be found here.

This National Access Plan (NAP) identifies three main groups who are underrepresented in higher education: students who

  1. are socioeconomically disadvantaged;
  2. are members of Irish Traveller and Roma communities and
  3. have disabilities, including intellectual disabilities.

The student is at the core of every aspect of this Plan. Everything is directed at delivering positive and inclusive outcomes for all students at every stage of their higher education journey. The focus of this NAP are six student-centred goals:

  • Inclusivity
  • Flexibility
  • Clarity
  • Coherence
  • Sustainability
  • Using an evidence-driven approach

Performance and impact of the Plan will be measured in three ways:

  • through key performance indicators,
  • national targets and
  • qualitative indicators.

The Plan proposes nine key performance indicators and four overarching targets for the higher education system. The key performance indicators will be measured yearly where possible.

The mid-term review (in 2025) will consider how targets and indicators can be refined or developed. The new Access Data Plan will greatly improve performance measurement and it is intended to put it in place early in the lifetime of the Plan to examine ways to improve data collection for priority groups.

For any queries on the National Access Plan, please contact

National Access Plan: A Strategic Action Plan for Equity of Access, Participation and Success in Higher Education 2022 - 2028


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