Figures released today show over 450 students who would not traditionally have access to third level education due to financial constraints have been awarded scholarships worth over €2m from UCD since 2012. These figures were released at UCD’s Access Symposium which celebrated the contribution UCD’s Access and Lifelong Learning Centre has made to widening participation at the university.
The 450 students include students from low-income backgrounds, lone parents, people with a disability, refugees, and members of the travelling community, amongst others. In the most recent academic year, €510,000 was awarded to 340 students.
Speaking at the symposium today, Dr Anna Kelly, Director of UCD Access and Lifelong Learning Centre, said:
In UCD, we believe that students entering higher education should reflect the diversity of the wider population. All students should be made to feel welcome and that their experience, perspective and opinions are respected and valued.
At the moment, over 29% of our undergraduate student population is now drawn from communities experiencing low progression to higher education, and we plan to increase this to 33 per cent by 2020. However, access isn’t just about getting students in the door to the University, it’s about ensuring they have the same opportunities to succeed when they get here.
The theme of the Access Symposium event was ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and the keynote speaker was criminologist, academic and social justice campaigner Phil Scraton. Professor Scraton is best known for his investigative research into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and his work on social justice campaigns. His keynote address focused on the challenges involved in bearing witness to the pain of others in the context of a social, political and economic right.
Commenting further, Dr Anna Kelly said:
Today’s theme of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was chosen as a nod to Professor Scraton, but also because it underscores UCD’s philosophy and approach to access – that all students belong.
At UCD Access and Lifelong Learning Centre, we work to make this philosophy a reality. Cothrom na Féinne is the largest access scholarship programme in the country and translates as justice and equality – named after our University motto. By having a student population that reflects wider society, the entire university is enriched. We are actively working to nurture a culture and ethos that reinforces our commitment to inclusivity, scholarship, and collaboration.
University College Dublin (UCD) is also part of The University of Sanctuary initiative. The initiative goes beyond financial support and includes measures such as outreach programmes in direct provision centres to raise awareness and encourage participation in higher education.