New Initiative Launched by Minister Burton to Enable Students from Under-represented Socio-economic Groups Progress to Higher Professional Areas

Posted on: 27 November 2012

Trinity Access Programmes  ‘Pathways to the Professions’  Launched at TCD

A suite of innovative initiatives that aim to increase the proportion of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds progressing into higher professional areas was launched by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton last week (November 22nd). The ‘Pathways to the Professions’ are part of the Trinity Access Programmes (TAP), Trinity College Dublin.  The pilot programme ‘Pathways to Law’ has been co-developed by TAP and Trinity College School of Law, with input from legal professional training bodies and a range of major legal firms, including A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, Matheson and William Fry. 

On the occasion of the launch Minister Burton said: “While the principal aim of the programme being launched this evening is to increase interest among the access target groups in higher professional areas, I believe that an equally important aim is engaging with the industry and with the professional training bodies in helping to make much needed changes to the current system. I also extend my sincere thanks to your partners in the law profession who are here today and who have worked so diligently to make this initiative a success. The importance of strong systems of partnership and collaboration to the success of initiatives such as this cannot be under-estimated.”

Pictured on the occasion of the launch are Trinity students (left to right) Patricia Muundijua, second year Law & Business student, Richard Okare, first year Engineering student; Cian McLeod, second year  Economics & Mathematics student; Gary Gannon, graduate of History and Politics this year; Laura Ann Lambert,  final year student of Medicine.

“What is essential and again underlines why this initiative will be a success is the emphasis being placed on students gaining a practical understanding of the study of law and the legal profession itself.  While these are challenging times, all third level institutions have a vital role to play in continuing to access initiatives. Key to this work will be effective networks of collaboration with schools, other higher and further education institutions, business and industry and of course the local community.” 

One hundred and six students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds have progressed into the School of Law through TAP since 1997, 95% of whom successfully completed.  Seventy-one per cent of Trinity College TAP young adults studying Law achieved a 2.1 degree.  

Participants in ‘Pathways to Law’ are selected from second level schools linked to TAP and they are engaged in a range of on-campus activities such as mock trials, legal ‘speed meets’ and ‘So you want to be a lawyer?’ sessions throughout the senior cycle.  Those who progress to Trinity School of Law benefit from opportunities to gain hands on experience within the partnering legal firms through mentoring connections and internships, as well as the support of a financial scholarship.  TAP is also launching a ‘Pathways to Business & Entrepreneurship’ and a ‘Pathways to STEM & Health Science’ so that TAP students can broaden their frame of reference when selecting a career and aim to progress into areas such as Medicine, Engineering and Business. 

Laura-ann Lambert, a final year Medical student who entered Trinity College via TAP said:

“In a country that advertises itself as a ‘knowledge based’ economy, we should strive towards engaging all our youth with the potential and academic ability to enrol in higher education. Currently, I’m involved in a Literacy Support programme with Suas Educational Development. Once a week, I read alongside girls in 3rd class of primary school who are enthusiastic, bright and eager to learn. Looking ahead I hope that they are afforded an unconditional opportunity to do what I have done.  They have so much to offer.” 

Research within an Irish and a UK context has highlighted that access to the established graduate professions continues to be dominated by students from higher social classes.   Moreover, it is projected that over the next decade, 83% of new employment in the UK will be in professional areas, as it moves further towards a ‘knowledge economy’.  Ireland will replicate this trend and it is imperative that we have people with the skills to meet the demand. 

Former Labour MP, Alan Milburn, the Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility and Child Poverty in the UK commented: “I welcome the launch of these professional pathways for students engaged with the Trinity Access Programmes.  Trinity College Dublin clearly recognises that collaborating with employers and professional training bodies can bring a professional career within reach for a greater range of people. It is commendable that Trinity is working hard to ensure that everyone with ability and motivation can make informed decisions and realise their full educational potential.”

The ‘Pathways to the Professions’ programmes have developed from a 2010 TAP research study ‘What Happened Next?’ showed that while TAP graduates were achieving equivalent academic results to their Trinity peers and were securing comparable  jobs post graduation, the participants have had a more complex experience of navigating the labour market and securing degree-related employment. The research pointed to the need for strategic supports and projects to enable TAP students to aim for ‘market sector’ and higher professional career opportunities.   The model is a re-development of similar programmes developed by the Sutton Trust educational think-tank and a range of selective universities in the UK.

These programmes are launched along with a new TAP Strategic Plan ‘2020 Vision’, which sets a target of 2,020 TAP graduates of TCD by 2020.  First year entrants to Trinity from  groups under-represented in higher education has increased from 5% in 2001 to 19% in 2012. They include students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with a disability and mature students.

 “The Higher Education Authority welcomes the establishment of the Pathways to the Professions initiative by Trinity College Dublin. A higher education qualification alone cannot guarantee that graduates from more disadvantaged backgrounds will be able to compete on a level playing field in developing a career in the professions, especially in professions such as law and the health sciences. Graduates from more advantaged backgrounds can often draw on inter-generational knowledge and social capital in navigating a path into the professions. Such resources are not available to all. Through Pathways, Trinity College is endeavouring to address the imbalance in opportunity and is doing so through a partnership approach with key companies and professional representative bodies. The Higher Education Authority will keenly observe progress on the initiative over the coming years,” concluded Higher Education Authority CEO, Tom Boland.

About ‘Pathways to the Professions’

Pathways to Law

Pathways to Law initiative has been developed in partnership with the School of Law in Trinity and aims to inspire students from under-represented groups who are interested in the law and to give them the confidence, knowledge and tools to maximise their potential.

Pathways to Business & Entrepreneurship

Pathways to Business & Entrepreneurship aims to expose TAP students to a range of professional business opportunities and provide opportunities for them to explore and develop their entrepreneurial skills. 

 Pathways to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) & Health Sciences

Pathways to STEM & Health Science aims to support and encourage second level, Foundation Course and undergraduate students to identify, develop and realise career objectives related to science, technology, engineering, maths and health sciences.

Creative Arts, Technologies & Cultural Hub (CATCH!)

CATCH! aims to provide a range of cultural and creative experiences to children and young adults in TAP link schools to increase their aspirations for higher education and support the continued development of their natural curiosity and imagination.  It will also work with TAP undergraduate students to develop awareness of the educational and career opportunities in the creative and cultural fields. 

About The Trinity Access Programmes

The Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) are a key part of Trinity’s social mission. TAP aims to increase participation in education by students from non-traditional backgrounds, to address educational disadvantage and to create a university campus that mirrors the diverse composition of Irish society.

Since 1993, TAP has worked in partnership across the education sector and with families, communities and businesses to widen educational access through a range of innovative, targeted educational programmes. The annually increasing number of students and graduates of Trinity College Dublin from socio-economically under-represented groups are testament to the College’s dedication to widening participation and the success of the TAP initiatives. 

These students make a real impact in their schools, communities and families as role models. They are also making a positive contribution to diversifying the student body in Trinity, as well as the graduate labour market in Ireland.