Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today announced ring-fenced funding of €300,000 for targeted supports to address the implications of COVID-19 for Traveller transfer to and progression within higher education.
The funding, which has been secured through the Dormant Accounts Fund, will help ensure expected increases in Traveller participation in higher education remain on track.
Minister Harris said:
"I am delighted to have secured this additional funding which is expected to have a significant positive impact on Traveller access to and retention in higher education.
"It is important to be able to safeguard increases in participation in higher education by the Traveller community during this pandemic and mitigate against the risk of long-term damage arising from COVID-19.
"I look forward to working with and engaging with higher education institutions and local and national Traveller organisations to ensure the successful roll-out of the actions in the Action Plan for Increasing Traveller Participation in Higher Education."
Irish Travellers are one of the target groups identified by the National Access Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (NAP) that are currently under-represented in higher education. The target of 80 from a baseline of 35 was set for the duration of the NAP for Traveller participation.
The progress review of the NAP in 2018 indicated some success but also highlighted the need for a more focussed intervention, resulting in the Action Plan for Traveller Participation in Higher Education 2019 – 2021.
Participation by Travellers in higher education remains stubbornly below expectations; recent data shows only 61 Travellers in higher education and approximately 1% of Travellers have a third level education.
The fund will be used to support four areas:
health and social impact
Minister Harris added:
"It is my hope that this dedicated funding will have a transformative long-term benefit for the Traveller community; a community with a current unemployment rate of 85% and where many have yet to reach their full potential. I’ve said previously that I want to create an island of talent and inclusion, this is just one small step in achieving this goal."