45 students studying on the Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) Foundation Course for Higher Education have celebrated their graduation at Trinity College.
The Trinity Access programmes support people from areas with low progression rates to higher education to reach their full educational potential. It offers a range of access programmes for people with the enthusiasm, motivation and ability to succeed at third-level. The team at Trinity Access engage with communities and schools in low progression areas to encourage a positive mindset and support real steps towards going to university.
The Foundation Course aims to tackle educational disadvantage by 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 that 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 linked to Trinity Access or to other access offices and took part in outreach activities while in school.
Since the course began in 1997, 95% of graduates from the Foundation Course have progressed to degree level studies, and 706 students have progressed to degree courses in Trinity College Dublin. For this year’s cohort, 44 of the 45 graduates have applied for third-level courses in Trinity under the facilitated entry route, with one student applying for a course in UCD.
This year, Oxford University announced a major access initiative modelled on the Foundation Course. The oldest university in the English-speaking world will now offer up to 50 places on a similar course to low-income young adults by 2023, under a new initiative called Foundation Oxford. This follows the 2018 launch by Cambridge University of a £500,000 campaign to support a Transition Year for students from underrepresented socio-economic groups, also based on the Trinity College Dublin and Lady Margaret Hall Foundation Year track record.
Trinity Access Co- Director Dr Cliona Hannon commented: “Trinity Access Foundation Course students have been the pioneers of educational change in Trinity College Dublin for over 20 years. We are delighted to see the wider development of the Foundation Year through Foundation Oxford.”
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 eleventh year, the programme involves mentoring sessions, workshops on CV building, interview and presentation skills, and weekly breakfast meetings with firm partners.
Some of the students who recently graduated were:
Mary Geraghty from Ballymun who said: “Growing up I always struggled in school. I never identified as being intelligent or bright and as a result my academic confidence was continuously quite low. At 17 years old I left school without my Leaving Cert. Shortly after this I became a mother and I spent most of my adult life working full time raising my son. In 2014 at age 35 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was an incredible scary time for both myself and my family. Although my cancer treatment was very difficult I was lucky enough to be given a very good prognosis. I felt like I had been given a second chance at life. Something inside of me began to shift and I knew I wanted to change my life. So, in 2017 I returned to education and completed a QQI level 4 and this led to me being accepted onto the Trinity Access programme. I have just recently received an overall distinction for the course. The course has changed my life, it has given me belief in myself and for the first time in my life I have a confidence in my academic ability. My dream is to complete a degree in Social Studies at Trinity and become a social worker, so I can help vulnerable people in our society.”
Lilian Kuria from Clondalkin who said: “The Foundation Course has changed my life forever. It has helped me grow into the person I am today. This time last year, I was a completely different person. I used to be this shy, unconfident person who didn’t believe in my abilities to reach my potential goals. However, this Foundation Course has changed me to be a better me, a confident person who believes anything is possible if I put my mind to it. There were challenges along the way, but the support given by the tutors was encouraging and it helped me learn a lot throughout the whole year. When the first round offers land in August I am hoping for a place in one of the health sciences. I love helping people, so it would be great to have a career in a health science.”
Aaron Rock from Drimnagh who said: “When I left school I felt like I had no opportunities, I had no CAO options or job prospects. My final year in secondary school left me feeling defeated and truly unhappy about my place within the education system. Trinity Access truly did change my life; I’m the first person to ever attend any university in my family. The Foundation Course allowed me to connect with people from similar backgrounds and it not only allowed me to progress into one of the most prestigious colleges in the world, it left me with a support network. The TrinityAccess programme has allowed me to look forward to a brighter and better future, and permitted me to progress within third level education. It has allowed me to succeed in a way that I have never dreamed imaginable.”
Amy Doyle from Ringsend who said: “I worked extremely hard during my time in secondary school as nobody in my family has progressed on to third level before. My mother has some health issues, which made it difficult for her to work. We struggled financially because of this. I hoped to change the lives of myself and my family by obtaining a degree. I was determined to be the exception in my family. The Foundation Course gave me the confidence boost I needed before going in to university. Doing [the course] is one of the best decisions I ever made. Currently, I’m working as an audit and assurance intern in Grant Thornton. Without Trinity Access, I would not have got this amazing opportunity. Throughout the year, my mentor from the company aided me with anything she could, both in my personal and college life, through frequent meetings and workshops. . I’ve only just finished my first week there and I already learned so much.”
Further information on the Trinity Access Programme can be found here: www.tcd.ie/trintyaccess