The experiences of newcomer populations and access to higher education opportunities in Ireland : an exemplar of enhanced or impeded integration policy
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This thesis was framed within a period of what appeared to be endless economic growth and prosperity, significantly predicated on the requirement to attract and retain migrants into the Irish economy. As a consequence of the seismic economic decline Ireland has experienced since 2008, the thesis examines the impact of the re-adjustment of policies and practices on particular groups of migrants by providing a critical insight into their experiences of access to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and third level learning experiences in Ireland. Having participated in the Linehan and Hogan research on the experiences of migrants in higher education and training in 2008, it became apparent through research undertaken in the north west region, that a number of themes and issues were evolving: namely, the identification of a collection of interrelated barriers that migrants appeared to be encountering in higher education, primarily as a result of the underdevelopment or absence of access to HEI policies focusing on the learning needs of some newcomer populations. There are a number of limitations to Linehan & Hogan’s (2008) research, including a specific lack of focus on the humanistic perspective of the development of human potential on a holistic level. Each individual is entitled to flourish through education: a basic fundamental human right. Theoretically, this thesis is grounded in a rights-based approach (RBA) incorporating Nussbaum’s (2001) ‘Capabilities Approach’ (CA) along with a Walzerian emphasis on notions of membership and belonging and the denial of these to certain ‘out groups’ in society, namely certain migrant groups. Cumulatively, by adopting a social justice paradigmic lens and in conjunction with the insights of 41expert interviewees, a comprehensive review of existent literature along with the inclusion of a comparative international dimension to these issues by way of insights gleaned from the Netherlands and Great Britain, a number of key findings and recommendations are advanced. These include the urgent necessity of a major overhaul of policies around access to higher education for particular groups of migrant learners in Irish HEIs. Related to this, the findings uncovered in this thesis suggest that the presence of indirect institutional racism and institutionally racist practices around migrant learners’ access issues need to be addressed at both the national (Higher Education Authority) and HEI specific levels.
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