Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has reversed a decision to require Garda vetting as an entry requirement for this year’s intake of students on its Access Foundation programme.
In a statement issued to Campus.ie, Head of Admissions Frank Costello said: “there will not now be a requirement for Garda vetting at application stage.” The statement continued to say that Mr. Costello himself “will be meeting with the programme committee to identify mechanisms to ensure that programme participants who express an interest in further study in certain areas, such as clinical practice, work placement, coaching or peer mentoring is a requirement, will be facilitated at an early stage to complete the vetting process to ensure access programme participants have a seamless transition into their degree programme of choice.”
The decision follows campaigning from many political figures including Senators Lynn Ruane, John Dolan and Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett.
Trinity Senator Lynn Ruane spoke to Trinity News, saying: “It is always negative to be putting up more barriers to access to education. Obviously, I welcome the decision and happy that [DIT] saw the light. I wrote to the Data Protection Commissioner and the Human Rights and Equality Commission about the issue but in light of it being reversed, I hope it hasn’t created any stigma for people from non-traditional backgrounds.”
Speaking to Trinity News, DIT Students’ Union (DITSU) President Boni Odoemene said: “DITSU is very happy to hear that the policy has been reversed. We were very concerned as to the impact on current Access students as we have the largest Access programme in the country. “
The programme, which prepares students for third-level study, is for mature students and young adults who come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The course intake is around 120 students, but unlike other programmes, graduates are guaranteed progression to a DIT CAO course.
Former Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President and Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who herself received a place in Trinity via the Trinity Access Programme (TAP), wrote to DIT president Professor Brian Norton earlier this week to express her concerns. According to the Irish Independent, Ms Ruane said that access programmes were a “fundamental part of how we tackle socio-economic inequality and are a key asset in ensuring access to higher education for minority and disadvantaged group”. Ms Ruane also said that she understood for certain degree programmes, such as social care, that Garda vetting was required but was “firmly opposed” to requiring access programme applicants to undergo vetting.
In a statement earlier in the week, DIT said that their original decision requiring the vetting was made following a review of the programme and on the grounds that a significant portion of Access Foundation students went on to courses where vetting was a requirement. “It was felt that this would prevent a student being accepted onto the programme and subsequently finding themselves disbarred from participating in activities, being restricted from placements and possibly not completing their programme.”
The Irish Independent reported that DIT’s original statement emphasised that a criminal record, arrest or other misdemeanour did not prevent an individual from being approved under a Garda vetting process – it only addressed issues of concern for protection of children and vulnerable adults.
“We have a long track record in providing pathways for individuals from communities where there has not been a tradition of continuing in education or where an individual’s experience of education may have been cut short for a range of social and economic reasons, including custodial sentences.”
Additional reporting by Sarah Meehan and Oisín Vince Coulter.