Educational thinktank to hold first meeting

25 Mar 2004

The first meeting of the advisory group for devising a national strategy to widen access to higher education is take place tomorrow at the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in Dublin.

The creation of the group, which will act as an advisory and consultative body to the HEA’s National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education, was among the actions recommended in the Report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education (McNamara Report).

The body, which will be chaired by Dr Mary-Liz Trant, director of the National Office, includes representatives of the social partners, higher education institutions, parents, students, equality bodies and other stakeholders. The National Office hopes to submit the plan to the Minister for Education and Science in the autumn.

Tom Boland, HEA secretary/chief executive, stressed the importance of this initiative for disadvantaged groups. “Make no mistake about it, given what we know of the impact of higher education on life chances, these people are not merely excluded from higher education but from the opportunity to achieve their potential and live fulfilled lives.”

He added: “Achieving equality of educational opportunity and equity of access to higher education are policy priorities for the government and the HEA. A range of policy documents published over the past 10 years have expressed this commitment clearly and unambiguously. The results have, however, been mixed and there are still groups in our society that are significantly under-represented in higher education. These groups include the socio-economically disadvantaged, mature students and students with a disability. We must act now to address these gaps in our system.”

By Brian Skelly