Thursday, 19 November 2020
Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: Statements
Tá áthas orm labhairt. We are here to discuss third level education in the round mainly. I also want to raise the challenges that are facing many students in the price of student accommodation which is effectively acting as a barrier for many students who just cannot take up places in college. We need to get to grips with that as this is excluding bright and gifted students. We need to ensure that we have legislation in place to overcome all of this.
The Government can announce millions in support and measure after measure to assist college students but all of that will be purely academic, pardon the pun, if people are priced out of going to college. That is why we must return again and again to the core issue of educational inequality and disadvantage. I already called on the Minister earlier this year to make immediate provision for the re-establishment of the education disadvantage committee which was set up under the Education Act 1998 and which did tremendous work. It was good value for money and led to many initiatives that came into play today, such as the DEIS initiative. This needs to be looked at. I raised this with the Minister, Deputy Foley, at the Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science earlier in the week. This would afford many students the opportunity of breaking out of that cycle of disadvantage and ensue that they had equal opportunities in this Republic.
We have had the Higher Education Authority’s newly released report, A Spatial & Socio-Economic Profile of Higher Education Institutions in Ireland. That report concluded that students from less well-off backgrounds and geographical areas continued to experience continuous and systematic levels of social and class disadvantage within our education system.
The report by the HEA makes for deeply disturbing reading in the sense we seem to have learned nothing over recent years when it comes to increasing educational opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The challenges students face at educational level are being translated into deep, highly unequal economic divisions. Both the Minister and Minister of State must now accept that a new and imaginative approach is needed.