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Harris announces €450k funding to assist Traveller and Roma students in higher education

There is a significant gap in higher education between Travellers and the wider population, Minister Simon Harris says.

Students on Trinity campus in Dublin.
Students on Trinity campus in Dublin.
Image: Shutterstock/Rob Wilson

FUNDING IS TO be rolled out to help close the gap in higher education for Traveller and Roma students. 

The announcement comes today from Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD. The said that €450,000 in funding  will be used specifically to assist Travellers and Roma students in higher education.

Some of the money will be used for bursaries for students. 

The investment was secured through the Dormant Accounts Funds to ensure that COVID-19 did not widen the already significant gap in higher education between Travellers and the wider population, his department said. 

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “Participation by Travellers in higher education remains at an alarming low level and recent data shows just 61 Travellers in higher education. Only 1% of Travellers have a third level education.”

We have a significant way to go to improving participation rates among the Traveller and Roma community but it will also offer additional supports to people already in Higher Education.

He added that there is a “real risk that the small increases we have seen in recent years could be lost as a result of COVID-19″, and this is something his Department is determined to mitigate against.

“This funding marks a 50% increase in the funding secured in 2021,” he said. “It will have transformative long-term benefits for the Traveller and Roma communities and allow third level institutions broaden their reach people in these marginalised communities.”

The key objectives of the fund will be:

  • To ensure that the risks associated with COVID-19 do not serve to widen the existing and very significant gap in participation in higher education by Traveller students
  • To safeguard progress towards increases in participation in higher education by Traveller & Roma Communities during the pandemic
  • To support student success and the achievement of NAP targets for Traveller participation in higher education
  • To enable HEIs to broaden their reach to assist members of the Roma community
  • To deliver once-off payments/bursaries to Traveller and Roma students in need of resources
  • To offer mentoring and mental health support;
  • To improve digital connectivity through the purchase of laptops for second levels students;
  • To strengthen pre-entry supports by working with community partners to assist Traveller students and their families in navigating the process from application stage to registration.

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Dr Alan Wall, Chief Executive of the HEA, said that the HEA welcomed the news. He said that the impact of COVID-19 “continues to exacerbate the challenges faced by Traveller and Roma students when accessing, and participating in, higher education”.

The continuation of this Fund, and its expansion to include Roma students, is an important intervention that will help achieve a more ethnically diverse student body.

The funding measure is in addition to those already in place to support the Action Plan for Increasing Traveller participation in Higher Education 2019-2021.

The funding will enable the building of an interagency community approach led by higher education institutions, in collaboration with local Traveller and Roma organisations. Harris’s department said it “will have transformative long-term benefits for the Traveller and Roma communities”.

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