National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education

19 April 2021 

Minister Harris opens public consultation to inform the development of the next National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education

 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD has welcomed on Friday the 16th April the start of the public consultation process to inform the development of the next National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education, which will cover the 2022-2026 period.

The third National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (2015-2021) sets out the Department’s current strategy to address underrepresentation in higher education by those groups identified in the plan.

The vision of the current National Access Plan (NAP) is to ensure that the student body entering into, participating in and completing higher education at all levels reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland's population. 

The NAP identifies the target groups that are currently under-represented in higher education, which includes: entrants from socio-economic groups that have low participation in higher education; Irish Travellers; students with disabilities; first time mature student entrants; part-time/flexible learners; and further education award holders.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “We have recently commenced the process of developing the fourth National Access Plan for higher education. Today, we are formally launching the public consultation to inform the development of the plan and we want to hear from you. It is essential your voice is heard in this process and informs the future direction of higher education access policy.  Everybody will have an opportunity to make a submission. I would encourage everybody who has an interest in access to higher education to take the time to participate in this consultation process and make their views known.”

Commenting on the launch of the consultation process, Dr Alan Wall, CEO of the HEA said: “Achieving equity of access and participation in higher education is core to the work of the HEA. It is one of the strategic themes in our Strategic Plan and is reflected in the national priorities set out in successive System Performance Frameworks for higher education.  We need to ensure that our National Access Plan is ambitious and innovative so that our higher education student population is one that truly reflects the diversity of Irish society.  I encourage students, higher education institutions, representative and community organisations, and members of the public to have their say on this national priority.”

An inclusive higher education system is a national and European priority.  Inclusion is one of the six strategic goals set out in the Department’s recently published Statement of Strategy. Access to higher education is everybody’s business and it will remain a key policy focus for the Department in the coming years. It is important that the next National Access Plan builds on the achievements made to date and creates the necessary opportunities for those who wish to access higher education. 

Details of the consultation and how to make a submission are available on the Department’s website.

The current National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education covers the period from 2015 to 2021. It has five priority goals as follows:

  • Goal 1: To mainstream the delivery of equity of access in HEIs;
  • Goal 2: To assess the impact of current initiatives to support equity of access to higher education;
  • Goal 3: To gather accurate data and evidence on access and participation and to base policy on what that data tells us;
  • Goal 4: To build coherent pathways from further education and to foster other entry routes to higher education; and
  • Goal 5: To develop regional and community partnership strategies for increasing access to higher education with a particular focus on mentoring
The plan committed to increasing participation in higher education by groups who have been under-represented. The particular groups targeted were:
  • Entrants from socio-economic groups that have low participation in higher education;
  • First time, mature student entrants;
  • Students with disabilities;
  • Part-time/flexible learners;
  • Further education award holders; and
  • Irish Travellers

The current National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education is available here.