16 Jan
  • By Alison Martha Fagan

Ireland’s road to third level education

Education should be for all; we all have a fundamental right to education. In its essence education is the promotion of learning, “a cooperative and inclusive activity that looks to help people to live their lives as well as they can”. (1) Education unlocks doors and expands the mind. It puts people on an equal footing and opens up the gate to a “bright and successful future”. (2). Education should be for everyone regardless of their circumstances. However this is not the case. In both developed and developing countries alike barriers exist that prevent both children and adults from having basic access to education. Such barriers include gender, cultural identity, health and socioeconomic background. In developing countries the situation is widely prevalent.

According to figures from UNICEF an estimated figure of “101 million” (3) are not in school. In fact in sub-Saharan Africa this is rife with 32 million children still uneducated. Many children are denied access to education with children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds impelled to give up education to work (4).


In Ireland the road to third level education is hit by stumbling blocks. Many young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds suffer a lack of access to higher education. Those from ethnic minorities and traveller backgrounds are also highly unrepresented at third level. However there is light at the end of these tunnels. In developing countries UNICEF is working tirelessly to create a world where all regardless have access to free education. In fact UNICEF is working enormously on behalf of girls who suffer considerably with this issue. This includes “Millennium Development goals 2 and 3” to make sure all children have access to schooling “and to eliminate gender disparity by 2015” (5). In Ireland several incentives have been established to establish a country where education is for all. The Higher Education authority-Equity of Access and Qualifications section took on the mantle of developing national policy of developing equality of access to all to higher education including those from “underrepresented groups such as disadvantaged students, mature students and those with disabilities”(6). Moreover the Trinity Access Programme has been a major player in this field since 1993. For those students who may not have been able to afford third level education it has provided a foundation course for both young and mature adults to give them a stepping stone to university and help them achieve their education goals. Education should be for all and is a basic human right.


However despite this according to an analysis of the recent Irish Times feeder list it shows the gap between those who can afford to go to third level and those who cannot. The 5th December 2017 edition of the Irish Times states that, “fee paying schools continue to send large numbers to third level” (7). Moreover those in suburbs of Dublin which could be described as affluent have record breaking progression rates above the list. This strikes in stark contrast to more disadvantaged areas. Here in areas such as “Clondalkin” and “Ballyfermot” progression rates are significantly lower. (8); such social inequality seems to pervade system despite efforts such as Trinity Access Programme to tighten the gap, such “educational inequality” in Ireland of Winter 2017 is rife despite there being many factors as to why this is the case. They could be amongst other things “limited financial resources” and “poverty” (9) as regards the disadvantaged. Education should be for all whether it is first, second or third level but it appears some are denied this basic human right.


  1.  date accessed 30/11/2017
  2. date access 30/11/2017
  3. date accessed 30/11/2017
  4. date accessed 30/11/2017
  5. date accessed 30/11/2017
  6. date accessed 30/11/2017
  7. accessed on 17/12/2017
  8. accessed on 17/12/2017
  9. accessed on 17/12/2017

Alison Fagan – a graduate of Trinity College Dublin who enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction and am very concerned with social and world affairs