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Friday 23 August 2019

Exposed: the huge class divide in our universities

Just 24pc of first-year full-time students at TCD are in receipt of student grants
Just 24pc of first-year full-time students at TCD are in receipt of student grants

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

The big class divide in Irish third-level education is exposed in new figures showing how students from better-off families capture most of the places in the country's universities.

It means they are filling the lion's share of the most sought-after honours degree courses, including elite high-points programmes.

The first-ever breakdown of the proportion of first-year student grant-holders in each college highlights a wide disparity between the universities and the institutes of technology.

Figures compiled by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), based on data supplied by the student grant agency, SUSI, show that, overall, 46pc of first-years in 2013-14 received a maintenance grant to help cover their living costs.

However, the breakdown by sector reveals 56pc of new entrants to institutes of technology receive a grant, well ahead of 36pc in the universities. Elsewhere, such as teacher-training colleges, the average was 41pc.

In the most extreme example, 71pc of students in Letterkenny Institute of Technology are on a grant, compared with just 24pc in Trinity and 28pc in UCD.

Grants are a good measure of third-level access across the social classes because eligibility is predominantly determined by an assessment of the income of students or their parents.

HEA chief executive Tom Boland said the data would help underpin a new National Strategy on Access to Higher Education.

Irish Independent

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