21 October, 2019 – Minister Mitchell O’Connor acknowledges HEA report “A Spatial and Socio-Economic Profile of Higher Education Institutions in Ireland”

The Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (21 October) welcomed the publication by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) of a new report: A Spatial and Socio-Economic Profile of Higher Education Institutions in Ireland.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “This report provides us with valuable initial indicators into how the dedicated efforts we are making to support students who want to go to college are working.

“I am determined that we will continue to improve equality of access to higher education, for every student. This is a national priority for the Government and the Department of Education and Skills.

“In 2019 we have made provision of almost €370m in funding to support 75,000 SUSI grant holders. In addition, through initiatives such as the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH), Student Assistance Fund and the Fund for Students with Disabilities, we are spending €27m this year to support 30,000 students in higher education institutions. Over and above this, higher education institutions are receiving an additional €37m this year to support access students in their universities and colleges.

“The National Access Plan for Higher Education has already had a significant impact. We are seeing an improvement in the number of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are enrolling in higher education. The progress review of the plan demonstrated that the policy and the supports being put in place for students and for institutions are working.

“We can still do more. It is a major priority for me as Minister for Higher Education to ensure that we are removing barriers and creating more opportunities to go to college for all prospective students regardless of their background.

“We need to ensure that our policies strengthen the participation of students from diverse backgrounds to go to our IOTs and universities. To create policy that is robust, and that can be measured and evaluated, we need accurate data and evidence. This is the first year of such data collection and I believe it will be an excellent addition over the coming years to our evidence base. I am grateful to the Higher Education Authority for its work on this report.

“This report does indicate the vital role of high-quality education being available to students in their own regions, and underlines the importance of the Government’s technological university strategy.

“I wish to thank the higher education institutions for their co-operation in facilitating the report. The findings presented in this report are a valuable resource for all higher education stakeholders.”

Further information on “A Spatial and Socio-Economic Profile of Higher Education Institutions in Ireland” is available at www.hea.ie


Notes for the editor

The report “A Spatial and Socio-Economic Profile of Higher Education Institutions in Ireland” contains analysis of deprivation index scores derived from student home address data for higher education enrolments in the academic year 2017/18.

The report enhances understanding of how socio-economic background and levels of disadvantage have impacted on rates of participation in higher education.

The Progress Review of the National Access Plan (NAP) published in December 2018, acknowledged a number of significant positive developments and characterised the first phase of implementation of the NAP as a period of achievement and investment. It also pointed to an on-going need for further work in this area.

Goal 3 of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 is to “gather accurate data and evidence on access and participation and to base policy on what that data tells us”. Specifically, the National Access Plan identified the need to develop an overall data strategy for equity of access; to review current and new data to see how this may be developed to identify geographic areas with high levels of disadvantage and to analyse rates of participation in higher education from those areas.

Throughout the Plan’s consultation phase, the limitations of the current data in relation to students from target socio-economic groups (SEGs) was raised.  Accordingly, the HEA commissioned Trutz Haase to examine and report on a data plan for equity of access to higher education with an emphasis on the development of a new approach to SEG data. Key stakeholders and experts such as DES, HEA, CSO, SOLAS and Professor Pat Clancy, were involved in this process. 

The report was published<http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2018/05/HEA-Data-Plan-Report-2017-V16-Haase-Pratschke-Final.pdf> in 2018 and sets out a new framework for evidence based-policy making and target setting for equity of access.

The report identified the key steps to be undertaken for the implementation of the data plan.

Since the publication of the Trutz Haase report, the HEA has taken several steps in implementing its recommendations.