Encouraging data on third-level grants
SUSI, the single national grant awarding authority, had an inglorious entry on to the Irish stage as it struggled to pay grants to students. Happily, those early stumbles appear over and SUSI has now delivered intriguing data on who gets college grants.
This is important information closely linked to our social and economic well-being. It is early days and any conclusions must be very tentative. But there is a strong suggestion that the field for grant allocation is being levelled out.
Statistics have shown there was a past bias in favour of rural areas in the west, and also in favour of the self-employed and farmers. But changes are now emerging, with grant allocation in Dublin up 15pc over the first two years of SUSI's operation, while grants in Mayo are down by 18pc.
Clearly, more work needs to be done before we extrapolate further. We must also stress that lack of money should not deprive any youngster of access to third level. Equally, this data must not become some kind of inter-county competition. But fair treatment in accessing education is a cornerstone of a just society which can flourish economically.
These aims must be explicit and implicit in our approach to third-level education.