Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education, today launched the government’s Action Plan to Promote Traveller Participation in Higher Education. The launch, which took place on World Access to Higher Education Day, was held in TU Dublin. It was attended by third level students and recent graduates from the Traveller Community who shared their experiences of studying in third level institutions and highlighted the supports which were most useful to them.
The plan is part of the National Access Plan for Higher Education 2015-2019 and was developed in consultation with Traveller representative groups. It focuses on the retention and transition of Travellers across all levels of education and seeks to tackle the cultural barriers which impact Irish Travellers’ ability to achieve their educational potential. The plan also focuses on Travellers returning to education as mature students.
The plans include continued support of Traveller culture in all higher education institutions, fostering increased awareness of the benefits to be gained from higher education and the increase of Traveller participation in education through mature student measures. As well as this, the Government plans to strengthen existing links between the Career Guidance Service and Home School Community Liaison Scheme in schools and access officers in higher education institutes. Opportunities for improvement in transition into the workplace for Irish Travellers who have completed higher level education will also be investigated.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “The Government’s aim is to double the number of Travellers studying in our higher education institutions. Today’s plan is focused on achieving this goal, building on the good work already being done to widen access to higher education to people who traditionally have not seen it as a viable option for them.”
“I am determined that Traveller young people, from an early age, will see going to college and having all the options that are available to other young people as a realistic future for them. I want to make it a reality that every Traveller – whether in school or a more mature person – has real choices to go to college or take part in higher or further education if that is their wish. “
In 2017, the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) was established, providing targeted supports and bursaries and supporting regional collaborations between higher education institutions and community partners. Following its creation, Traveller participation in education has increased, however Irish Travellers remain an under-represented group in Irish education. 61 members of the Travelling community were in higher education in 2017, according to a report from the Department of Education, this was an increase from just 41 in 2016.