Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has advised applicants for its Access Foundation programme that Garda vetting is now an entry requirement for this year’s intake of students. 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 to express her concerns. According to the 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, DIT said that their decision 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 Independent reported that DIT’s 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.”