ALL third-level colleges have been told they are at risk of losing funding from 2011 if they do not reach targets on participation by students from under-represented groups.
The message in a letter this week from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which oversees funding of universities and institutes of technology (IOTs), is that, while the third-level sector is performing well in terms of increasing access for mature students, those with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds, they will be the subject of increased focus in future funding.
Of all higher education entrants last year, 9,313 were from these categories, up from 8,704 the previous academic year. The figures show an increase under each of the under-represented headings, except for those from Traveller backgrounds, whose numbers fell from 33 to 24 in 2008/2009.
In the letter, HEA chief executive Tom Boland said:
“With the increase in student numbers, including those who are now seeking new opportunities following job losses, and more students and their families experiencing financial difficulties, access is a front-line service more than ever before.”
Current funding for third level was not increased this year despite colleges taking in an average 6% more students.
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