Post codes to help track areas where fewer students progress to third-level

The introduction of post codes in Ireland next year could help track the worst geographical areas for students progressing to third-level.

And identifying such areas will allow better information campaigns on higher education to be directed at certain schools.

The aim is to get more information to students at higher risk of not making it to third-level, as some areas have only a small proportion of national averages of those that progress.

But clues to the potential of better address information about students attending college are evident in the wide disparities between young people living in different Dublin postal code areas.

Although the average participation rate of people aged 18 to 20 from the capital is 47%, it is 99% and 84% in Dublin 6 and Dublin 4, respectively. Only 15% of the same age group from Dublin 17 and 16% from Dublin 10 were in higher education in 2012.

Nationally, Galway, Leitrim, and Mayo had the highest numbers of young people in third-level, with their 60% rates followed closely by the 59% in Roscommon and Clare, and 58% for Cork and Sligo.

However, participation is as low as 41% in Laois and Donegal, although the Ulster county’s figure could be underestimated due to large numbers attending colleges in the North.

Other border counties with low rates include Cavan and Louth, both at 46%, but only nine counties have a higher participation rate than the 54% in Monaghan.

The figures feature in the Higher Education Authority consultation paper on improving third-level access. It says financial constraints, particularly for students just short of qualifying for grants, are among factors preventing some from lower socio-economic groups going to college.

The positive impacts of access routes for students with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds to 20 universities and other colleges since 2010 are still being assessed. Under these schemes, college applicants from those categories can get into courses with lower CAO points than others, and receive additional supports on campus.

Although overall numbers of students with disabilities exceeded targets in the HEA’s 2008 to 2013 access plan, targets for deaf or hard-of-hearing students were not achieved.

The HEA says research indicates lower progression rates among young people with disabilities who are also from disadvantaged backgrounds, but issues with availability of sign language and other supports for part-time students have also been raised.

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