A failure to upgrade teaching resources has left the two classrooms used by Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) in a dilapidated state, according to Dr. Lisa Keane, who oversees the programmes’ post-entry progression and alumni development. The state of the classrooms in its Goldsmith Hall base on Pearse Street, which are used for its one-year foundation course classes as well as regular meetings and sessions with school students, “lead to this idea of people coming in to Trinity through the back door, through the not so glamorous underworld,” she told Trinity News last week.
Keane said that the perception that TAP courses are “a hotbed for trying new teaching methodologies” has been undermined in recent years by its current lack of resources. “How can you claim to be a space for innovative technology if you’re working in really old classrooms? They have a computer and a projector screen but that’s about it,” she said. “Increasingly, we have students that have specific learning needs and they’re not they being met by traditional teaching formats.”
Keane was speaking after Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (SU) this month agreed to allocate €48,566 in HEA funding to renovate the classrooms and expand the TAP laptop lending service. The planned upgrade, passed at a meeting of the SU Council on February 17th, will see the rooms being refurbished with interactive whiteboards and furniture that can be easily moved, as well a wall in each room being resurfaced to allow students to write on them. 15 new laptops will also be purchased for its laptop lending service, used by over 900 undergraduate access students as well as 56 TAP foundation course students. The scheme currently relies on six laptops, purchased in 2009.
The investment is being funded by the €603,709 fine imposed on College by the HEA in July 2012 for its payment of unauthorised academic allowances. The fine led to the creation of a special fund, controlled by the SU and the Graduate Students’ Union, that must be spent on projects supporting student services.
Keane, while welcoming the move, said that TAP would like more space to call its own. “We have about 60 students with us on the foundation course and another 100 odd with us in partnership courses in CDETB [City of Dublin Education and Training Board] colleges, as well as the countless business and community groups that work with us,” she told Trinity News. “We could fill multiple theatres in College if we had the space.”
While Keane said she was confident that College’s commitment to increase the percentage of undergraduates from non-traditional backgrounds to 25% will be met by 2019, as outlined in its current five-year strategic plan, she acknowledged that its continued expansion relies on the support of various corporate supporters and other private donors. TAP has a current annual budget of €1.5m that comprises about €800,000 in public funding, €250,000 in private funding and €450,000 from the European Social Fund. “None of our funding streams are defined,” she said. “They’re all subject to annual change, so I can’t confidently say we’ll have enough exactly at any given time.” College, however, supports it in “findings channels” to increase its funding, she added.
Photos: Catherine Healy