Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today announced the roll-out of courses for students with intellectual disabilities.
The courses are to be delivered in 10 higher education colleges across the country and will provide significant opportunities for students.
In addition, Minister Harris is announcing €1.8 million to support inclusion. This will include the roll out of sensory maps of college campuses to support autistic learners and anti-racism measures particularly to challenge racism for members of the Traveller and Roma communities.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “This is an incredible day for our education system. For far too long, higher education has been out of reach for young people with an intellectual disability.
“We see colleges as communities and therefore, our college campuses must reflect our communities. That is why we are announcing over €10 million today to open up our higher education system to learners with an intellectual disability.
“Up until now, courses have been limited in location and availability but this investment will help change that and ensure there is equality of opportunity for every person in our country.”
The programmes are spanned over 10 different higher education institutions and are due to commence in academic year 2024/25. Approximately 150 students can be expected to enrol in the first year of provision.
Minister Harris added: “When given the opportunity, students with an intellectual disability can thrive. Access to higher education can lead to employment. It can transform the lives of students and their families as well as society as a whole.”
Under the National Access Plan 2022-28, a total of €12 million was secured under PATH Strand 4 to deliver a two-phase programme supporting inclusion for all and course provision for students with intellectual disabilities.
The first phase of funding was distributed in 2022/2023 and supported higher education institutions to embed universal design approaches and inclusive practices to help embed a sense of belonging for all students.
Phase 2 is a three-year pilot to support an enhancement of course provision for students with intellectual disabilities. This will include courses from Level 3 on the National Framework of Qualifications onwards.
The programmes were recommended for funding by an independent expert panel following a competitive call for proposals under strand 4 of the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH), managed by the Higher Education Authority.
The approved courses have been specifically designed to meet the diverse range of needs of students with intellectual disabilities and funding can be used for the provision of ancillary financial, pastoral, and educational supports.