The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 (National Access Plan) was published in December 2015. The vision of the National Access Plan is to ensure that the student body entering, participating and completing higher education reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population. The Department of Education and Skills established the Programme for Access To Higher Education (PATH) Fund to support the implementation of the plan. PATH Strand 3 supports the objective of developing regional and community partnership strategies for increasing access to higher education by specified groups. Regional clusters of higher education institutions (HEIs) were invited to submit proposals under PATH 3; in response, the South Cluster devised the SOAR Project. Initially funded for a three-year phase (2018-2021), PATH 3 was extended for a further three years (2021-2024) by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The fund is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
The latest National Access Plan – National Access Plan: A Strategic Action Plan for Equity of Access, Participation and Success in Higher Education 2022-2028 published in August 2022 is available at:
National Access Plan 2022-2028 | Policy | Higher Education Authority (

Transformational Goals

The SOAR Project have identified five overarching transformational goals. These ambitious long-term goals are interrelated and interdependent and involve culture, practice, and policy. In all aspects of project design, development, implementation, and evaluation we endeavour to further these goals to support increased access to higher education for under-represented groups.

  • Socially Inclusive Learning Environments

  • Transition Readiness

  • Community Embedded Mentoring

  • Enhanced Access Knowledge & Service

  • Cross-Cluster and Community Collaboration


The South Cluster has a clear governance structure. The Steering Group comprises Registrars of the five participating institutions together with the respective Access Officers. An Advisory Group of Access Officers and Community Partners provide project oversight. Adopting a distributed leadership model four work streams have an institutional lead and comprises relevant Access Practitioners with community partners providing critical community intelligence to inform project initiatives. Partnership for Access spans all streams and is therefore the collective responsibility of all institutions and partners.

Path Steering Group

Registrars Access Officers

Path Advisory Group

Access Officers Community Partners

Work Stream 1

Travellers in Education
Lead: MTU Cork Campus

Work Stream 2

Enabling Transitions
Lead: SETU Waterford

Work Stream 3

Connecting Communities, Connecting Curriculum
Lead: UCC

Work Stream 4

1916 Bursary Fund
Lead: SETU Carlow

Work Stream 5

Partnership for Access