About the Project
This project is one of the 2012 WISE Awards finalists.
The mission of Trinity Access Programs (TAP, Bridge21 and NIID) is to widen the participation at third level of socio-economically disadvantaged individuals, to develop innovative and potentially transformative solutions to challenges in the education system, and to promote inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities through education, research and advocacy. It consists of three programs: TAP, which focuses on low-income students, Bridge21, which leverages technology to effect educational transformation, and the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID) which delivers a Certificate in Contemporary Living within Trinity for students with intellectual disabilities.
For 400 years, Trinity College Dublin was seen as an elitist, exclusive institution, but now all that has changed. In 2013, 20 percent of the student body was from under-represented groups (socio-economically disadvantaged, students with a disability and mature students). Each TAP student is from a family with little or no history of higher education and their progression has had a “ripple” effect within their own community. Trinity is an iconic educational institution in Irish society and history. The Trinity Access Programs have transformed the perception of who belongs and who contributes in such an environment, critical in a global context of increasing polarities and inequalities.
Context and Issue
This project aims to widen participation at third level of socio-economically disadvantaged individuals, to develop innovative and potentially transformative solutions to challenges in the education system, and to promote inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities through education, research and advocacy.
The challenges the project addresses relate to inequality and exclusion. The poor participation rate in higher education of students from low-income backgrounds represents a huge waste of human potential. The project also tackles structural issues at second level, as these impact on student engagement, attainment and, ultimately, progression. Finally, the project includes students with intellectual disabilities, as a case in point of how university resources can be used for the inclusion of those most marginalized in society.
Solution and Impact
The Trinity Access Programs are innovative in the sense that they open higher education to people who would otherwise have been excluded, providing them with the ability to acquire knowledge and understanding to make valid, informed decisions, as well as share ideas, understanding and opinions, and in doing so transform their lives. It also supports educational transformation of the second-level system through the Bridge21 program. The NIID includes university students with intellectual disabilities, normally among the most marginalized in society.
In terms of the impact, “non-traditional” students now comprise 20 percent of the Trinity cohort, up from five percent in 2001. Seven thousand five hundred students from link second-level schools have progressed to higher education in the last decade. Since 2007, 4,000 young people from 50 schools have taken part in Bridge 21 programs. Over the past two years, more than 80 teachers have applied the Bridge 21 learning model in their classrooms. The National Institute for Intellectual Disability’s course stakeholders – students, tutors and family members – reported that the course had significant advantages for the students associated with growing independence, increased confidence and social networking.
Over the next five years, the project will focus on increasing by 15 percent per annum the number of students progressing from low-income groups to Trinity. It will also implement a whole-schools transformation program using the experience of TAP, Bridge21 and CFES, a US-based non-profit organization. This will aim to leverage technology to transform pedagogy and create a “college-going culture” through three core practices – Pathways to College, Mentoring, and Leadership Through Service. The NIID will continue to deliver the CCL and aims to replicate this model nationally and internationally.
The programs are working with a significant sponsor to secure a three-year grant which will enable development of this growth strategy. This is almost finalized. The present focus is on ensuring that the target for inclusion of these student groups is an internal priority for the university in its next strategic plan (2015-20), which will be finalized this year. The programs have formalized a relationship with CFES and engaged with all their link schools to assess their interest in this model. The targets are based on maintaining an incremental rate of growth year-on-year that experience shows to be sustainable, and ensuring students continue to get the quality of support they deserve.