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New courses for students with intellectual disabilities

Higher education courses for students with an intellectual disability are set to be rolled out across the country.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris announced the introduction of the courses to be delivered at ten higher education colleges to offer new opportunities for students.

The courses are due to commence in the 2024/2025 academic year, with around 150 students expected to enrol in the first year of the scheme.

In addition, €1.8 million for inclusion measures will be introduced to include the roll-out of sensory maps of college campuses to support autistic learners and for anti-racism measures, particularly to challenge racism for members of the Traveller and Roma communities.

Mr Harris said that college campuses must reflect communities.

“We know that people with an intellectual disability have not been represented adequately in Higher Education. We want and need our college Campuses to reflect communities,” he said.

He added: “Today, we are making a change. Today, we are opening doors and opportunities so that these learners can take their place among our college communities.”

He said the expanded Higher Education course provision had an expected investment of over €10 million to support learners with intellectual disabilities.

“Up until now, courses have been limited in location and availability, but this investment will help change that and ensure there is equality of opportunity for every person in our country.”

The courses under this initiative will be between one and two years in length, students can apply directly to the college involved and can make use of specific pastoral and financial supports.

“These courses have been designed with the learner at heart. When given the opportunity, students with an intellectual disability can thrive.

“Access to higher education can lead to employment. It can transform the lives of students and their families as well as society as a whole.”

Head of Access Policy at the Higher Education Authority Dr Louise Callinan said the pilot expansion of the provision for students with intellectual disabilities will have a “transformative impact on participating students” and the wider higher education community.

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