College Connect

College Connect is a collaborative initiative from the MEND Higher education cluster, which comprises of AIT, DkIT, DCU, and NUIM.

College Connect is a collaborative initiative from the Midlands, East, and North Dublin (MEND) higher education cluster, which comprises Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), Dublin City University (DCU), and Maynooth University (MU). It is a three-year project, Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) 3, funded by the HEA, which aims to admit 400 additional students from specific target groups (e.g. Irish Travellers, one parent families, in/were in the care of the state, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities/programme refugees, mature students etc.), who are under-represented in higher education. College Connect marks a departure from the traditional ‘singular’ approach to widening participation toward a collaborative, regional approach, which prioritises people within the MEND region experiencing multiple barriers to accessing higher education.

College Connect will use community needs analysis as a basis to co-design imaginative and creative interventions with our target groups and stakeholders, which include community organisations, local authorities, and industry. The interventions will reinforce and support: aspirations towards higher education; educational attainment; and college awareness. Supports within the College Connect project will also assist participants in developing skills critical to higher education participation and employability. Drawing on existing national (e.g. the Census, Pobal HP Deprivation Index) and institutional (student profiles) datasets, the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO), will develop a detailed spatial analysis of the MEND region. AIRO, in collaboration with the project team, will identify untapped higher education ‘cold spots’, track barriers to higher education at local levels, evaluate the impact of the project, and monitor higher education progression and employment outcomes over time.  


Project Vision and Mission

Our vision is a student population that reflects and respects the diversity of the community in our region.

Our mission is to change who goes to college by working together as education providers and communities. This new partnership will empower future students to make informed choices and fulfil their potential.


Project Values

We believe in the transformative power of education and embrace diversity as a resource to the MEND HEIs which drives organisational and academic excellence. This project is informed by the community development principles of participation, empowerment and sustainable development. Community partners will be located at the heart of this project and our actions will be guided by the educational needs of people in our region who typically do not progress to higher education. This project aims to make a meaningful contribution to the advancement of social justice and cohesion in our region.


Meet the Team

The College Connect Team, the Programme Director and four regional Community Connectors, all from a community and youth background, have been newly recruited for the duration of the project. The team have extensive experience working with and engaging with people in various community settings, building and maintaining effective relationships for sustainable intervention outcomes.

Meet the College Connect Team