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Minister Harris announces additional scholarships for underrepresented and disadvantaged students

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today announced financial supports for students seeking to access higher education.

The measures, which will support the achievement of goals in the upcoming National Access Plan, are in addition to the €3 million to enhance opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities and autistic students to access Higher education this year.

This €2 million funding in 2022 will include;

  • An additional 50 bursaries of €5000 per student for the most disadvantaged students including those with a disability, mature students, lone parents, and further education award holders;
  • The establishment of new three year stream of funding to support Travellers and Roma participation in Higher Education;
  • Allowing those on certain existing scholarships retain the funding for graduate entry medicine.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “One of my key priorities since becoming Minister is to promote access to education. We have placed a relentless focus on promoting inclusion.

“Education is for everyone and yet there remains significant cohorts not represented in higher education.

“That is why we intend to launch a new National Access Plan to ensure we change the conversation about higher education and ensure it is available to all who wish to access it.

“We also must ensure we help diversify our professions too. That is why I am particularly pleased that we are allowing certain scholarship holders continue their bursaries for graduate entry medicine courses .

“The student must be at the centre of all that we do, everyone should have equity of access to education independent of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, gender, geographical location, disability or other circumstances, and this additional ring-fenced funding is created to support all in entering, participating in and succeeding in higher education.”

In addition, consideration is being given for new measures to promote transitions from further education to Higher Education for priority groups with a specific emphasis on supporting students who are member of the Traveller & Roma communities.

Once off measures will also be provided to support the development of partnership with DEIS schools, the Further Education sector and other community partners to support students from underrepresented groups to access Higher Education.


Notes to the Editor

It is a programme for Government commitment to “continue with, and expand, the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education”. Equity of access to higher education is a fundamental principle of Irish education policy and a priority for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the Higher Education Authority.  The core policy principle is that people should have equity of access to education independent of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, gender, geographical location, disability or other circumstances. 


Since 2005 there have been three national plans for equity of access in higher education. The Higher Education Authority Bill 2022, which is currently progressing through the Oireachtas, will put the development of the National Access Plan on a statutory basis. The commitment to equity of access is also articulated in developments such as the Higher Education System Performance Framework, and the access strategies of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

Budget 2022 provided an additional €5m for measures to support the delivery of the National Access Plan. In addition to measures previously noted by Government in respect of initiatives to support universal design and for the creation of more opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities to engage in the higher education, the Minister intends using this funding to roll-out measures to support innovative approaches to the delivery of this plan, including:-

  • 50 Additional PATH 2 Bursaries of €5000 per student for the most-socio economically disadvantaged students from within priority groups,
  • Broadening of flexibility for PATH 2 bursary holders including allowing students to continue their bursary for  Graduate Entry Medicine courses.
  • The establishment of PATH 5 to support Travellers and Roma participation in Higher Education by means of a three year pathfinding pilot.
  • Consideration being given to the provision of a Further Education sector co-ordinator to promote the PATH Programme within Further Education & support transitions to Higher Education for priority groups with a specific emphasis on supporting students who are member of the Traveller & Roma communities is being considered as a time-bound pathfinding pilot.
  • Once off measures in 2022 to further promote transitions to Higher Education within PATH 3 in recognition of additional DEIS schools, the additional priority groups identified in the National Access Plan and enhanced focus on Further to Higher Education transitions particularly for mature students.

The Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund (first established under the last Plan) will continue to support delivery of the new Plan.  This is a multi-strand initiative which supports time-bound programmes and projects with innovative approaches to deliver the ambitions, goals, objectives, actions and targets of National Access Plans.


  • PATH 1 focuses on broadening access to initial teacher education. It funds those HEIs that have Centres for Teaching Excellence in order to strengthen their capacity to deliver access through innovative projects to improve diversity in the teacher workforce.  This reflects the central role of teachers as role models in driving access goals.


  • PATH 2 (1916 Bursary Fund) launched in the 2017/2018 academic year. This strand supports the most socio-economically disadvantaged students with a bursary worth up to €5,000 during each year of their studies. The bursaries provide extra support to students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds to successfully participate in higher education, including at postgraduate level. The 1916 Bursary Fund and the number and diversity of students it has supported has been a key achievement during the lifetime of the 2015–2021 Plan and will continue to play an important role in this new Plan.


  • PATH 3 funds regional clusters of HEIs to develop partnerships with DEIS schools, the Further Education sector and other community partners to support students from underrepresented groups.


  • The recently launched PATH Strand 4 will, over two phases, strengthen universal design for all students, including autistic students, and enhance opportunities for engagement of students with intellectual disabilities in higher education.




* To support progress towards targets for participation of Travellers in HE

* To support the development of targets for participation of Roma in HE

* To support the implementation of Traveller Education Strategy ( when developed)

* To mitigate against the disproportionate impact that COVID19 had on the Traveller & Roma community.


* PATH Strand 5 launched – ring-fenced funding to drive participation in higher education by Traveller & Roma students.

* €1.350m fund over three years; i.e., €450,000 per year, commencing in 2022.

* Allocation model to be agreed, following discussions with the Sector – Consideration will be given to most appropriate model – directly to HEIs or through PATH cluster model to facilitate a regional and collaborative approach.

* Funding will be advanced for year 1 by 31 December 2022.

* Clusters to submit project plans for use of funding in Q1 2023; the HEA Executive will approve plans.

* Clusters will report annually consistent with other PATH reporting timeframes; templates will be rolled into other PATH reporting templates where possible.


* Traveller participation numbers in higher education have remained consistently low and below expectations, notwithstanding the target set in the last National Access Plan.

* Early findings/feedback from stakeholders in relation to the Traveller and Roma Dormant Account funding show that the funding is having a positive impact and has supported Travellers staying in higher education (see report attached). Specifically, the Traveller and Dormant Account was welcomed as the first ring-fenced fund for Travellers in the higher education space. But there are challenges in relation to the sustainability of funding and level of funding. A ring-fenced three-year fund would help to address these challenges and support HEIs to build long term relationships in their communities.

* The New National Access Plan sets ambitious targets for Traveller participation, but they are acknowledged as being well below what the vision of the NAP seeks to achieve – dedicated resource is required to allow targets to be achieved and the setting of higher targets consistent with the NAP vision.

* Roma is a target group for the first time in the new NAP – dedicated funding will help to support HEIs to put in place an infrastructure to drive participation by Roma students.

 The new National Access Plan will be published in Q3 of 2022.