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Written Answers - Access to Higher Education

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

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 44. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the supports in place to support access to third level education for students from disadvantaged areas; his plans [154]to introduce bursaries for disadvantaged students to enhance equality of access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19418/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn A wide range of actions to improve access to third level education are being progressed through the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (2008-2013). Key achievements to date include the development of access and lifelong learning plans for all higher education institutions funded by the HEA. These include plans for the continuation and development of programmes of work with young people and adults in schools and communities, particularly those in areas with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage and unemployment.

In 2011, the core funding model for higher education institutions was developed to include a targeted access element, the allocation of which is now linked to the number of students from target access groups participating in each higher education institution. A range of initiatives, including additional academic supports and targeted teaching and learning strategies are being developed by institutions with the aid of this funding as part of their access and lifelong learning plans. Work has also advanced significantly on the development of broader routes of access, such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The principal financial support made available to students from disadvantaged areas to facilitate access to third level education continues to be the means-tested student grant. Other financial measures to support broader access and participation include the provision of the special rate of maintenance grant for students from welfare-dependent families and the availability of the Student Assistance Fund at college level to assist students in particular financial difficulties.

From the academic year 2012/13 onwards, a number of existing scholarship schemes for higher education will be replaced with a new single scheme of bursaries based on merit but targeted specifically towards students from disadvantaged areas. The bursary, at €2,000 per year, will be an extra support and incentive to recognise high achievement for students who are from disadvantaged families and attending DEIS schools. Those students to whom bursaries are awarded will also be entitled to apply for student grants.

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