The National Access Plan for 2015-2019 sets out five goals and more than thirty actions that were developed following widespread consultation with stakeholders.

The aim of the plan is to support increased access and participation in higher education by six main target groups:

• People with disabilities
• Mature students
• Students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds
• Students progressing from Further Education
• Part-time students
• Members of the Irish Traveller community

The plan also aims to support participation by sub-groups within target groups, for example those who are lone parents or vulnerable migrants.

Mainstream the delivery of Access in the HEIs

HEIs have established dedicated offices and infrastructures to help deliver equity of access. The objective of this goal is to integrate the principles of access more fully across all faculties and offices in HEIs.

  • Access objectives in HEI compacts
  • Working Group on Student Success

Working Group on Student Success: Background Paper (137KB)



Assess the impact of Access Initiatives

The HEA and the DES are committed to examining how the overall structure of institutional funding and student financial support impacts on participation in higher education by people from under-represented groups and to consider how financial supports can best be targeted to improve access, retention and completion rates.

Actions being progressed under this goal include:

Review of the Student Assistance Fund (2MB)



Develop data on Access and participation

The HEA is currently developing an overall data development and knowledge management strategy for the higher education sector and the data collection and analysis initiatives undertaken as part of this National Access Plan will be part of that strategy. The deeper our knowledge on target groups, the better equipped we will be to focus resources through national and local initiatives.

Actions being progressed under this goal include:

  • Developing an Access Data Strategy

A Data Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (97KB)


  • Studies of Progression in HE


A Study of Progression in Irish Higher Education (3MB)



What do Graduates do? The Class of 2015

Build coherent pathways to Higher Education

This goal focuses particularly on opportunities for transition from further to higher education and sets the target of having 10% of new entrants to higher education coming from the further education sector by 2019.

Actions being progressed under this goal include:

  • System Performance Review

Higher Education System Performance First Report 2014-2016 (3MB)

Develop regional and community partnership strategies for Access.

In communities where there are lower than average levels of participation in higher education, initiatives should be developed in partnership with communities to address specific needs of the communities. Targeted initiatives developed in such ways can contribute in a meaningful way to encouraging education take up.

Actions being progressed under this goal include:

  • Access and Mentoring Programmes
    • There are many examples of good practice in Mentoring Programmes happening within colleges and institutes around the country. These programmes are working to strengthen the links between higher education institutes and local communities.
  • College Awareness Week
  • Review to Identify the Supports and Barriers for Lone Parents in Accessing Higher Education
  • Programme for Access to Higher Education: Strand 1 funding