Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 26 February, 1997
Written Answers - Third Level Education.
Ms O'Donnell Ms O'Donnell
55. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Education the measures, if any, she has taken and intends to take to increase access to third-level education for students from a disadvantaged background; the extent to which she has implemented the measures outlined in chapter five of the White Paper on Education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5182/97]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach) Niamh Bhreathnach
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The fundamental policy objective of promoting equality of access to, participation in and benefit from higher education was outlined in the White Paper on Education, “Charting our Education Future”. The White Paper recognises the need for a holistic approach to promote equality rather than policies focused only on the third level sector and on the transition from second to third level. In this regard, I have introduced a wide range of initiatives throughout our education system, such as the introduction of the Early Start Pre-School Programme, the introduction of the Breaking the Cycle initiative at first-level, targeting of resources at first and second level in disadvantaged areas, the provision of educational support services for first and second level students including psychological and guidance services, career guidance and remedial teachers, the continuing development of the home-school links programme at second-level, a major restructuring of the senior cycle curricula to adapt them to the needs of the wider spread of ability levels and backgrounds proceeding to senior cycle, and the introduction of alternative pathways for students to progress to post-second level education and training. As regards measures specifically targeted at third level, the White Paper identified a number of initiatives, namely:
Each third level institution will be encouraged to develop links with designated second level schools, building upon existing good practice.  Institutions will also be encouraged to develop appropriate arrangements to help students make the transition to full-time third level education. The Higher Education Authority, in consultation with third level institutions, will be asked to advise on the most appropriate and effective means of achieving an annual increase in participation of 500 students from lower socio-economic groups in third level over the next five years.
Proposals specifically relating to disadvantaged students have been received from the university sector by the Higher Education Authority and £260,000 has been provided for initiatives in a number of colleges which should result in an increased intake of disadvantaged students in 1997-98. These initiatives build on existing programmes and involve links with second level schools.
Furthermore, the free fees initiative and the third level student support schemes facilitate students with limited means who wish to progress to third level. I believe the abolition of undergraduate fees, in particular, will have very important material and psychological effects in encouraging greater equality in access to third level education.
Dáil Éireann 475 Written Answers Third Level Education.