Dublin colleges unite on access to education

“Widening participation in higher education: issues, challenge and priorities for the future”

Dublin, 9 December 2011: In the face of diminishing resources, DIT met with representatives from 12 other colleges from across Dublin to discuss ways in which they could collectively do more to encourage people from non-traditional backgrounds to consider higher education.

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The 13 colleges – including all universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education - are members of the Dublin Regional Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA), a strategic alliance of the Higher Education sector in the greater Dublin region that promotes collaboration between institutions. Widening participation has been a key priority for all of the institutions, both individually and collectively. Over the last decade the sector has made real improvements in access to college for students from traditionally under-represented groups in society. Additional support has been provided to ensure that students with a disability; mature students returning to education; students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and all ethnic groups, can overcome obstacles to entering higher education and achieving their goals. The results have been encouraging and the DRHEA member institutions are strongly committed to maintaining this momentum, even in these difficult times.

The purpose of today’s symposium was to showcase successful initiatives in widening participation in higher education in the Dublin region and to explore innovative ways of further facilitating access for people from all social groups.

In his keynote address to the Symposium Professor Philip Nolan, President, National University of Ireland, Maynooth outlined the issues, challenge and priorities for widening participation in Higher Education.
"We need a complete rethink of our model of post-secondary education if we are to reach all of those who should participate. What recent events clearly demonstrate is that our current model to fund increasing participation and widening participation is simply not sustainable. We need complete reform of higher education funding and student support. We also need to reorganise ourselves nationally, regionally and institutionally if we are to deliver effectively and draw into further and higher education those who have been excluded for generations"

According to Anna M Kelly, Convenor DREHA Widening Participation Strand
“The DRHEA Widening Participation Strand uniquely brings together the rich scholarly traditions and diverse expertise of 13 Higher Education institutions in the Dublin region and provides a mechanism to collaborate on a variety of innovations to support the increased participation by under-represented students in Higher Education, particularly needed in a time of diminishing resources'.

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has a 120-year tradition of providing education opportunities for a diverse range of students. Throughout its history, DIT has been a leader in the widening participation agenda in Ireland and continually seeks to remove barriers to participation in higher education. To find out more see http://www.dit.ie/wideningparticipation/

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