DIT defends garda vetting for students applying for course entry
Dublin Institute of Technology has defended a move to make garda vetting a condition for adult students applying for entry to a "second chance education" course.
Applicants for the DIT Access Foundation Programme, which prepares students for third-level study, have been advised that vetting is an entry requirement for next September's intake.
The one-year programme is open to mature students and young adults who have experienced socio-economic disadvantage. It caters for about 120 students a year and unlike similar programmes, graduates are guaranteed progression to a DIT CAO course.
Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who won a place in Trinity College Dublin via that university's access programme, wrote to DIT president Professor Brian Norton to express her concerns.
She said that access programmes were a "fundamental part of how we tackle socio-economic inequality and are a key asset in ensuring access to higher education for minority and disadvantaged group".
Ms Ruane said that she appreciated that for certain degree programmes, such as social care, in which graduates would be working with vulnerable adults, garda vetting was required.
But she was "firmly opposed" to requiring access programme applicants to undergo vetting.
Garda vetting is increasingly common on courses where work placements involve dealing with children or vulnerable adults and for student volunteering activities. The DIT decision is linked to the guarantee of a place on an undergraduate course of choice within the college for those who complete the programme successfully.
In a statement, DIT said the decision was taken during the course of a review of the programme on the grounds that a significant proportion of its students chose to continue on to programmes in DIT for which garda vetting is a requirement.
"It was felt that this would prevent a student being accepted onto the programme and subsequently finding themselves disbarred from participating in activities, being restricted from placements and possibly not completing their programme," it said.
The statement added that it was important to note that a criminal record, arrest or other misdemeanour did not prevent an individual from being approved under a garda vetting process - it only addressed issues of concern for protection of children and vulnerable adults.
"We have a long track record in providing pathways for individuals from communities where there has not been a tradition of continuing in education or where an individual's experience of education may have been cut short for a range of social and economic reasons, including custodial sentences," it said.
The statement said that while the requirement could be perceived as an obstacle for some people to pursue an ambition to participate in higher education, "we will make every effort to ensure that this is not the case, and with that in mind we will keep this decision under review."