Trinity College Dublin: Trinity Access 21

Trinity College Dublin were the winners of Excellence in Community – Volunteering award at the 2016 Chambers Ireland CSR Awards in September for their Trinity Access 21 programme.

Trinity Access 21 is a mentoring programme that involves over 1,200 second level students from 11 Dublin schools. It aims to support the development of a ‘college-going culture’ in schools with low progression rates. The vision for Trinity Access 21 is to be a “catalyst for social transformation, supporting people to reach their full educational potential through innovation, research and advocacy”.

The programme involves three core practices adapted from the US based NGO College for Every Student ( and TCD based Bridge21 ( These are mentoring, Leadership, and Pathways to College.

Mentoring involves students meeting in groups with a mentor a number of times a year over a number of years to help increase aspirations as well as communication skills. Mentors are recruited from colleges, local businesses and community groups as well as the school’s own alumni.

Leadership development encourages self-confidence and self-direction in students as well as developing important skills like project and time management by engaging them in small projects to help their school or local community. Students from areas that are underrepresented at third level are more likely to be the first in their family or peer group to access third level. Confidence and self-direction are thus important factors in the student’s ability to overcome the barriers associated with accessing higher education.

Pathways to College seeks to address the growing inequality in career guidance for second level students. Students areas of disadvantage such as Dublin’s north and south inner city have less access to the information they need when considering their future education and career opportunities. TA21 has developed a number of extra-curricular activities for students to engage with that have been successful in helping students understand the educational system and enabling them to make informed choices. TA21 plans to develop a student-led academic tuition programme in partnership with schools, to support higher attainment by students in disadvantaged schools.

Additionally, the project recognises that the key to empowering students is to empower their teachers and to this end the TA21 project is built around a teacher professional development programme. A fully accredited Postgraduate Certificate in 21st Century Teaching & Learning is offered to teachers. In 2014-17, 1,000 teachers in all school types nationwide have participated in this programme.

TA21 was established in 2014 is a collaboration between the Trinity Access Programmes (TAP), Bridge21, the School of Computer Science & Statistics and the School of Education. The project has been supported by a €1.5 million grant from Google in the 2014-17 period and support for the next growth phase of the project is now being sought.
Outcomes from the TA21 project indicate it is supporting schools to build a strong, college-going culture, where high aspirations are the norm and there is a more active, engaged, teaching and learning environment. Some key figures from the beginning of TA21 to the end of 2016 show in the graphic below.

Trinity Access 21 Statistics

Initial findings over the first 2 years show an increase in student’s college going aspirations matching that of the high progression schools but significantly higher than that of the matched schools not engaged in the project. Additionally schools have seen a marked improvement in overall attendance and behaviour for students engaged in the programme compared with previous year groups.

More info on the Trinity Access21 website.