Thursday, 9 July 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
1198. Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to further increase third level participation rates, with a special focus on persons from disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29458/09]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): The capacity of higher education institutions to address key national objectives, including increasing access and participation, is supported through core and strategic funding allocated under the Human Capital Priority of the NDP. The Social Inclusion Priority of the NDP also supports increased participation by disadvantaged groups through funding allocated through the higher education grant scheme and the third level access measure.
The combination of these measures, as well as the investment of other resources across the education system are achieving their intended objective. Targets for increased participation in higher education set by the Action Group on Access in 2001 have been achieved, both by disadvantaged and mature entrants to the sector. Evaluations of progress show that all of these measures have contributed to significantly increased participation rates in higher education.
In 1998 the overall participation rate in higher education was 44%. By 2004 it had risen to 55%. The HEA estimate that in 2007 participation rose to 64% of the relevant age cohort. A target of 65% has been set by the National Access Plan for 2013 and a target of 72% by 2020.
In 1998 just 23% of young people aged 17-19 from a socio-economic disadvantaged background entered higher education. By 2004 this had increased to 33%. A new target of 45% participation by 2020 has been set by the National Access Plan 2008-13.
In addition, the more recent Labour Market Activation measures that are underway are also supporting access to higher education through an expansion in part-time places as well as a broadening of entry routes through the preparatory and accelerated entry mechanisms which have been put in place over the past few months. The strategy on Higher Education, currently in preparation, will address participation issues as part of its work.
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