Dáil Éireann - Volume 520 - 08 June, 2000
Written Answers. - Third Level Participation Rates.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin
91. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to recent figures from the Higher Education Authority which indicate that third level courses, such as medicine, law and dentistry, are still dominated by students from higher income levels; the steps he will take to ensure more representative participation in such courses from students of all backgrounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16129/00]
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I understand the Deputy to be referring to a recent newspaper article showing the percentage of students receiving grants or scholarships in 1997-98 based on, as yet, unpublished and provisional Higher Education Authority material. The finalised student statistics relating to the academic years 1996-97 and 1997-98 are expected to be published later this year.
Our higher education institutions have statutory obligations to promote equality both in terms of gender equality and in terms of equality of opportunity for all sections of society. Accordingly, the goal of achieving equity in higher education is a central pillar of educational policy and I have already indicated my commitment to tackling issues of under-representation at higher education. There have been a number of important developments in this area.
 The national development plan provides for a third level access fund of £95 million 2000-2006 to promote participation of students with disabilities, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and mature “second chance” students. The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness indicates that additional financial supports for disadvantaged students, including disadvantaged mature students, will be put in place, targeted at those most in need.
The recommendations of the points commission are currently under active consideration in my Department, and planning for an implementation strategy is under way. Among the recommendations is that the quota for disadvantaged students be increased to 5% and that it apply to all courses. The recent publication of the report undertaken by Professor Malcolm Skilbeck and Dr. Helen Connell for the Higher Education Authority, Access and Equity in Higher Education, acknowledges the growing movement to advance equity in higher education and notes that considerable progress has occurred, notably through the substantial quantitative growth of third level places and the establishment of a greater diversity of institutions and programmes over the past decades. However, the report notes, among other things, the continued serious under-representation of lower socio-economic groups. Arising from this, the Higher Education Authority intends to host a major forum on equity issues in higher education in the autumn.
Dáil Éireann 520 Written Answers. Third Level Participation Rates.