Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (Monday) announced the roll-out of €300,000 in funding to support students from the Traveller community.
The funding is aimed at Traveller progression to and retention in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be used to support students with study spaces, health and social impacts, caring responsibilities or technology supports.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “COVID-19 has posed particular problems for Travellers participating in higher education.
“When I was appointed Minister, I met members of Traveller community who outlined the challenges they have in finding somewhere quiet to do their work or secure access to Wifi.
“This funding will help higher education institutions address the particular needs of individual students.
“The aim with this funding is to ensure that the risks associated with COVID-19 do not serve to widen the existing and very significant gap in participation in higher education by Travellers.”
Minister Harris added: “I am particularly pleased we can announce this funding on Traveller Ethnicity Day. It is my ambition to do everything we can to ensure members of the Traveller community access higher education and importantly complete their higher level journey.”
Dr Alan Wall, CEO of the HEA, said “Increasing and maintaining Traveller participation in higher education is fundamental to ensuring that the student body reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of Irish society, we must recognise the particular impact it is having on the Traveller community. Today’s announcement on ring-fenced funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund will provide higher education institutions with the opportunity to tackle these issues through additional pre- and post-entry supports for Traveller students. We value students from the Traveller community in higher education and we want to ensure that their participation is nurtured and increased.”
Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of Pavee Point, said “Pavee Point and the National Traveller Women’s Forum welcome this dedicated funding, which is a tangible response to the recommendations in the report of our National Forum last year on transfer to and progression within higher education.
“The fund will help to mitigate against the effects of COVID-19 on Travellers participating or hoping to participate in higher education. Essential special measures such as this are crucial to achieving real progress in realising education ambitions for Traveller families and we hope this marks an important milestone in enhanced approaches to collaborative engagement with colleagues across the wider education spectrum.”
Notes to the Editor
The third National Access Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (NAP) (2015 – 2021) identifies the target groups that are currently under-represented in higher education, including Irish Travellers. In 2018 a progress update indicated some success but also highlighted the need for a more focussed intervention, resulting in the Action Plan for Traveller Participation in Higher Education 2019 – 2021. Arising from on-going consultations with stakeholders including Traveller representative groups on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups, the need has been identified to provide a dedicated budget specifically to support Travellers in higher education that is outside of core activity and core funding to ensure the key objectives set out in the Action Plan and specifically to ensure that the risks associated with COVID-19 do not serve to widen the existing and very significant gap in higher education between Travellers and the wider population.
Dormant Accounts Funding of €300,000 in 2021 has been approved by the Department of Rural and Community Development, and is reflected in the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2021. This Fund will complement other initiatives which currently support access to higher education for Irish Travellers such as the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH), the Action Plan for Increasing Traveller Participation in Higher Education and the stimulus package of COVID-19 supports.
Outline of scheme
The broad funding principles and parameters of the funding are:
- Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can prioritise funding as they see fit within overall principles and funding parameters;
- Funding can support the development of a community based inter-agency approach led by the HEIs;
- Can enable both the retention and progression of existing students in higher education as well as support future transition of Travellers to higher education;
- Funding can be used for building capacity for increased engagement between HEIs and local and national Traveller organisations with a view to establishing local solutions to COVID-19 issues arising to support future transitions to higher education;
- Funding can be used for direct financial support;
- The funding is intended to complement existing activities or fund new/additional activities
Direct and/or indirect student supports can be facilitated to support activities such as:
- Study Spaces
- Health and social impacts
- Caring responsibilities – options can support full-time and part-time participation and can assist to remove these barriers to education.
- Technology, where this not been adequately addressed for Travellers through the COVID-19 laptop scheme
Funding Allocation by HEI