Over 450 students from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds have been awarded scholarships worth over Ä2m from UCD since 2012. The 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 figures relate to the Cothrom na Féinne scholarship fund which supports students who may not traditionally be in a position to access third-level education. These 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, Ä510,000 was awarded to 340 students.
Speaking at the symposium, 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.
“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 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 research into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. His keynote address focused on the challenges involved in bearing witness to the pain of others in a social, political and economic rights context.
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.
Cothrom na Féinne is the largest access scholarship programme in the country and translates as justice and equality.