Colm Burke TD.

Grants for Cork’s two universities

UCC and MUT have both received grants to support access for students with autism and/or intellectual disability

The initiative, which will be backed by €3 million of funding per year, was announced recently by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD.

The funding, which is ringfenced until 2025, will see €241,000 for UCC, while MUT will receive €180,000.

Welcoming the announcement was Fine Gael TD for Cork North Central Colm Burke who said the funding will play an important role helping to equalise access to education for all.

“The first phase of funding is for Universal Design which will be allocated to higher education institutions in 2022 to advance universal design and inclusive practices in higher education, to enhance opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities and students with autism in higher education,” said Deputy Burke.

He continued: “This includes improving campus accessibility such as supporting autism friendly campuses, like wayfinding apps, signage and small-scale capital works such as autism-friendly spaces like sensory rooms or quiet zones. This measure will complement existing student success measures in higher education for all students and learners.”

Deputy Burke said the funding will be of particular benefit to students with disabilities, including students with autism.

He said: “I am pleased to say a further call for proposals will be issued later this year as part of the National Plan for Equity of Access, Participation and Success in Higher Education.”

Minister Harris added: "We have never focused on how many students with an intellectual disability or autism have entered or completed third level.

“These new proposals will allow us to assess how we are doing, but crucially, we will be introducing new policy changes to ensure we do better.

“Education is the greatest leveller in society. A key ambition for me is to ensure that supports and opportunities are provided for learning to all.

“This means recognising the needs of vulnerable learners, people who are most marginalised and people with special and additional needs and assisting them in accessing and progressing through third level education.”

Minister Harris concluded: “This is an important day and I really want to thank everyone for working with us to make this a reality. This has the potential to change the lives of students with autism and students with intellectual disabilities.”