Colleges join forces to create College Connect initiative

Megan Jones

DCU, Athlone IT, Dundalk IT and Maynooth University have joined forces to create a programme aimed at increasing participation in Higher Level education for those who are currently under-represented. 

The aim of the Collect Connect initiative is to have 400 students from these underrepresented groups enrolled in higher-level education by the end of the programme. 

The specific target groups that College Connect wants to focus on are the Irish Travelling Community, one-parent families, young people who have been in care, people with disabilities, and refugees. 

The programme, which is funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), is a 3-year PATH (Programme for Access To Higher Education) project. 

College Connect is focusing on what is known as the MEND area, which includes the Midlands, the East and the North Dublin Area. 

According to collegeconnect.ie, the new website which was launched on November 20th, the programme will analyse the needs of these communities within the MEND area. Based on the results of this analysis, it will “design creative interventions” with their target groups and stakeholders, such as community organisations and local authorities.

College Connect hopes that these “interventions” will raise the ambitions of those in underrepresented groups, boost their education and increase their awareness about college. College Connect also states that they will help those who take part in the scheme to develop skills they need in higher education and the workplace.

Anthony Burrowes, one of the Outreach Officers for College Connect who is based in DCU, believes this new partnership will empower future students to make informed choices and fulfil their potential.

“Our mission is to change who goes to college by working together as education providers and communities,” he said. 

Another aspect of the College Connect initiative is the mentoring strand, which introduces students involved with the programme to people from similar underrepresented communities who are currently studying in Higher Education.

The aim of the mentoring is to support people from the communities to explore if college is for them.  Mentoring is a space of trust, where potential students can meet their peers who are in college,” said Burrows. “This is where the saying “if you can see it, you can be it” takes place,”.

As for the new website, it claims to be “jargon-free” and easy to navigate, with the aim of inspiring future students to consider college as an achievable option. It also lists the varied routes and financial support available to get to college.  

Megan Jones

Image Credit: Wikimedia