27 February, 2020 - Minister McHugh and Mitchell O'Connor announce extension of 1916 Bursary Scheme for a further three years

Extension of special commemorative access programme will see 1,200 students benefit over six years


Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor announced today that the 1916 Bursary Fund is being extended to new applicants for another three years from 2020.

To date the scheme has already supported 600 students. The expansion will double the number of people on the programme by supporting an additional 200 students to access higher education in each of the next three academic years.

A student, who meets a specific criteria as being among a group which is under-represented in higher level education, can apply to the programme. Each successful applicant will receive a €5,000 annual bursary during their undergraduate studies.

The extension of the programme provides clarity for students seeking to start university or college courses in September 2020, 2021 and 2022 who may wish to apply for the scheme.

The 1916 bursaries is funded through the Programme for Access to Higher Education Fund (PATH), which was established on a pilot basis in 2016.

PATH has already played a significant role in supporting increased participation of students at third level, including those from socio economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Irish Travellers, students with a disability, lone parents, mature students, further education award holders and those transitioning directly to higher education from leaving cert.

Minister McHugh said: “I am delighted that the 1916 Bursary Scheme is being extended to allow Government to deepen supports for more people and help to break historic barriers to higher education.

“Hundreds of people have already benefited from the programme and it is essential that we are able to preserve and expand such an important support mechanism for disadvantaged groups.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “As Minister for Higher Education, I am dedicated to making sure that everybody, regardless of their background or circumstances, has the opportunity to progress to higher education.

“The PATH fund has enabled our institutions to create new and innovative programmes to improve access to higher education. These have been absolutely crucial in giving those with huge potential, who might otherwise miss out, the opportunity to go on to higher education.

“I’ve been lucky enough to meet and hear the inspiring stories of many people who have benefited from these really innovative schemes, outreach programmes and bursaries, and whose lives are being transformed by their new opportunity. Congratulations are due to all involved on making these programmes happen.”

PATH has three funding strands to supports initiatives that increase the number of students from underrepresented groups entering higher education including teacher training, and is supporting higher education institutions to develop regional and community partnerships that make higher education more accessible to identified groups.



Notes for Editors


As part of Budgets 2016, 2017, and 2020, the Government has now committed €28.2m in funding over six years as part of PATH.

Today’s announcement marks the end of the pilot phase of the PATH fund. It is now established as a fund to which institutions can apply to provide innovative initiatives to support the diversity of students entering higher education.

The fund supports the Department’s goals under the National Access Plan.

Underrepresented target groups all over the country are eligible to apply for the PATH funding. Students and potential students who are members of these groups, based in ‘regional clusters’, were identified in cooperation with the higher education institutions based in those regions.

An initial assessment of the other strands of PATH funding, Teacher Education and Higher Education Access Funds, are underway. These assessments will inform future funding decisions for these strands.

This fund consists of the following three strands:



PATH 1 - Equity of Access to Initial Teacher Training


Under this strand, €2.7m has been provided over a three-year pilot phase period for teacher education access initiatives. The objective is to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups entering initial teacher education.

This means that students from target groups can more easily identify with their teachers, but also that the teachers have a personal understanding of the challenges their students’ face in pursuing higher education.  A report of the review of the pilot phase is currently under consideration and will inform future funding decisions.


PATH 2 - The 1916 Bursary Fund


Under this strand, €6m has been provided to award 200 bursaries a year to the most socio economically disadvantaged students from underrepresented target groups, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds like Travellers, students with a disability, and lone parents.

Funding of €12m has now been made available for the next three years commencing in the 2020/21 academic year. Successful applicants will receive a bursary worth €5,000 a year.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) operate the bursary fund in line with guidelines agreed by the Department.



PATH 3 - The Higher Education Access Fund


Under this strand, €7.5m has been provided over three years supporting regional clusters of HEIs. The fund is intended to attract 2,000 additional students from groups currently under-represented in higher education, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds like Travellers, students with a disability and lone parents.

This fund complements the direct student funding provided in PATH 2 by supporting institutional capacity in developing community partnerships strategies for increasing the participation of specified groups in higher education.

Initiatives within clusters are expected to target the sub groups mentioned in the National Access Plan, including lone parents and ethnic minorities.

At least 10% of all places will be targeted at lone parents, and funding of €2.5 million a year is available for PATH 3 for three years in the pilot phase. A review of the pilot phase will take place in 2020.