In April 2016, the Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) organised a “privilege walk” to highlight the diversity within Trinity, and to raise awareness of who they are and what exactly they are trying to achieve. The primary aim of TAP is to make college a reality for those who feel excluded from that narrative and yet strongly wish to have a college experience. TAP advisor Katriona O’Sullivan, who looks after the research and impact of TAP and Trinity Access 21, said that this diversity is one of the benefits that TAP brings to Trinity. TAP is there not only to bring diversity the student population, but to “break that barrier between a person’s life situation and talent”.
In 1993, TAP was formed as part of Trinity’s plan to encourage those who come from lower socio-economic groups and who are underrepresented in higher education to go to university. Since its formation, TAP has gone on to become linked to 19 primary and 20 secondary schools around Dublin. They make regular visits to these schools, where TAP students talk about their own experiences. Through the publicization of these personal stories, the hope is to encourage students to go on to study at college level.
TAP runs two foundation courses for Higher Education for Young Adults, one located in Trinity, the other in the Liberties. These are year-long courses during which students of TAP must complete assignments and sit exams. Depending on their level of success, students may earn the opportunity to begin their studies in Trinity.
This progression route is ideal for students who are unsure of what they would like to do following their time at school, and also for those who have a passion for learning but due to certain circumstances find themselves unable to achieve the CAO points necessary for their desired course.
TAP is not only for those fresh from leaving school. They also have a foundation course for Higher Education for Mature Students. As their students enter Trinity, TAP continues to support them, and offers a wide range of supports for those who are part of the programme, such as writing resources, a maths centre, and financial support.
These supports are there to help students achieve their maximum potential in College, and to help lessen some of the burdens that come with college life. When speaking about the academic success of those in the programme, O’Sullivan revealed that TAP students have a 94% course completion rate, and typically perform just as well as those who enter college through the Leaving Cert.
O’Sullivan reflected on the original scepticism the programme faced, and how the talent of TAP students has gone on to wash away this scepticism, allowing TAP to be embraced and to grow. “We are forming an army of successful students,” O’Sullivan commented, with some of TAP’s most prominent success stories including Senator Lynn Ruane and Laura Ann Lambert – the first student of TAP to become a surgeon. Understandably, these success stories have increased TAP’s popularity, and serve to encourage the programme in its bid to accommodate and give equal opportunity to those with the passion and determination to progress in their academic career.
The Future of TAP
Asked about the future of TAP, O’Sullivan expressed her excitement. The positive impact of TAP has spread outside Ireland, laying the groundwork for Oxford University to set up their own access programme based on TAP. O’Sullivan revealed that TAP are hoping to develop this international relationship, and that students from the Oxford programme have been invited to Trinity to strengthen the relationship.
O’Sullivan also talked about Trinity Access 21, which was formed in 2014 as a programme between TAP, Bridge21, the School of Computer Science & Statistics, and the School of Education. Trinity Access 21 is a mentoring programme in secondary schools that aims to support and encourage students to reach their full educational potential through innovation, research and advocacy.
Through the success of this programme over its initial three years, O’Sullivan has no doubt that it will help spread the message of the TAP programme into all communities. She revealed that the Shamrock Rovers, TAP and Trinity Sports are coming together, with the support of Equality Fund, to form a link between TAP, education and sports.
The programme will be called “College for Every Student”, and will seek to combine elite soccer training and education: “It’s for students from DEIS schools who think they have to choose soccer or education; this aims to combine both.”
Trinity College continues to support the growth of TAP, with the provost, Patrick Prendergast, remarking in The Irish Times on the success and impact of TAP and recognizing the programme’s achievements: “Their degree outcomes have been impressive and they have made a real contribution to the social and cultural environment of Trinity”.