Thirty-eight students graduated from Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) Foundation Course for Higher Education today, surrounded by friends and family in Trinity’s Public Theatre.
The TAP Foundation Course aims to tackle educational disadvantage, offering another way to third-level education for mature students and young adults whose social, economic and cultural experiences have prevented them from going to college.
The Foundation Course students come from communities in the Greater Dublin area, such as Finglas, Ballymun, Tallaght and Ballyfermot, which have relatively low rates of participation in higher education. Many of the mature students were early school leavers while the young adults come from schools which are linked to TAP or other access offices.
One student, Mansur Alam (20) from Bangladesh spent his early childhood living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. He came to Ireland in 2009, where he faced many difficulties and challenges every day with language and school work.
Commenting on his experience of doing the Foundation Course Mansur said: “I am the first person in my family to come this far, as my parents haven’t even attended primary school. TAP has been the best year of my life, the course has changed my life in many ways, it made me a better person and has given me the confidence to do things that I never thought I could, like volunteering abroad alone. “
Another student, Carol Deans from Dublin, left school when she was 14, to pursue an apprenticeship in hairdressing. She returned to education when she was in her 40s. Speaking about the course she commented: “My year on TAP has certainly been challenging academically. Just know with enough support and determination anything is possible.”
The 2016/17 cohort of students specialised in one of three subject areas during the Foundation Course: sciences, social sciences or arts. The Foundation Course is full time and very demanding, with small class groups, taught by Trinity tutors who encourage all students to participate fully and challenge themselves.
Since the course began in 1997, 95% of graduates from the Foundation Course have progressed to degree level studies, and 652 students have progressed to degree courses in Trinity College.
Following their graduation from the TAP Foundation Course, the 38 young adults and mature students are all expected to start degree courses across the three faculties in Trinity this September.
Speaking about the graduation TAP Director Cliona Hannon said:
“The TAP Foundation Course students have been the pioneers of educational change in Trinity College Dublin for nearly two decades. They have consistently defied the odds and changed people’s perceptions and expectations by performing well above average academically, by being ambassadors in their own schools and communities and by being socially and politically engaged and active. As students and as individuals, they are exemplars for us, and for others.”
Key to the success of the TAP Foundation Course is support from Grant Thornton through an innovative career development and mentoring programme. Now in its ninth year, the programme aims to remove some of the barriers students from low-skilled backgrounds can experience in progressing into the professional labour market.
This partnership between Grant Thornton and TAP is a new model in widening participation and creates pathways into the professional world of work for young adults from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Four foundation course students have secured summer internship positions with the company.
Noel Delaney, partner in Grant Thornton, commented: “We at Grant Thornton are delighted to be involved with the Trinity Access Programmes, which we have now being involved with for over 10 years. In a symbiotic way the TAP programme and Grant Thornton have grown and developed over the last 10 years and the ethos of the TAP programme reflects everything that we stand for. Grant Thornton’s four pillars of Corporate Social Responsibility are Education, Community, Wellbeing and the Environment, and the Trinity Access Programmes perfectly meets the first three of these.”