Four Irish higher education colleges are working together on the College Connect initiative. These colleges are in the Midlands, the East, and North Dublin – and are known collectively as MEND. The centres are:
- Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT)
- Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT)
- Dublin City University (DCU)
- Maynooth University (MU).
College Connect is a Higher Education Authority (HEA) funded three-year PATH 3 (Programme for Access to Higher Education) project. We aim to admit 400 students from specific target groups, who are under-represented in college, including:
- Irish Travellers
- One-parent families
- Young people who have been in care
- People with disabilities
College Connect is a new way to support people in the MEND area who are socially and economically disadvantaged. This is sometimes called ‘experiencing multiple marginalisation’. Instead of each college working separately to support these students, the four colleges will now work together.
We will analyse what the community needs and based on those results will design creative interventions with our target groups and stakeholders. These include community organisations, local authorities and industry.
The interventions will help marginalised people to:
- Raise their ambitions
- Boost their education
- Increase their awareness about college.
College Connect will help those who take part in the scheme to develop skills they need in higher education and the workplace.
The All-Ireland Research Observatory (AIRO) – an organisation that helps to map information in a visual way and this helps understand information. It will analyse existing information including:
- The census
- The Pobal HP deprivation index (This is a way of measuring wealth or disadvantage in an area.)
- Institutional student profiles (This gives information about where students are coming from in Ireland.)
They will use this information to develop a detailed analysis of the MEND region.
They will identify education ‘cold spots’ – areas of low education attainment – and track barriers to higher education at local levels.
They will also:
- Evaluate the impact of College Connect
- Monitor how people progress through higher education from the start of the Connect project
- Monitor employment outcomes.