University of Limerick
Power_2008_Sahrara.pdf (295.81 kB)

Crossing the Sahara without water : experiencing class inequality through the back to education allowance welfare to education programme

Download (295.81 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2014-05-02, 10:49 authored by Martin J. Power
This article critically appraises the success of the Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) in removing barriers to participation in 3rd level education for welfare recipients in Ireland. The paper is based on empirical data from focus group and in-depth qualitative interviews with 3rd level students on the BTEA. This study argues that it is beneficial to society to specifically fund access to third level education for people on welfare as it provides the State with a larger return on its initial investment than traditional welfare to work programmes. However BTEA participants perceived that the effectiveness of the scheme in providing access falls short in the face of the class inequalities that exist in 3rd level education in Ireland, which are assisted by a general acceptance of the 'new right' ideology of personal responsibility. It is argued that the specific targeting of individuals for the scheme and the provision of direct assistance in applying for 3rd level courses would maximise the schemes potential. It is argued that welfare recipients are still seen as 'Undeserving' (MacGregor, 1999: 110). This mindset allows short-termism to prevail in relation to the progression and administration of the BTEA. This ideology allows the civil service to take personal ownership of decisions affecting the participants on the scheme. The data shows how these elites restrict the effectiveness of the BTEA, with a functionalist approach being taken to both the design and implementation of the scheme. The strong appeal of the functionalist approach is its ability to appear compassionate, helpful and promising while simultaneously posing no real risk to the status quo (George & Wilding 1985, p.9). At all stages of their participation in the BTEA scheme the respondents have come up against obstacles. Subsequently when assessing the overall effectiveness of the BTEA in achieving its primary objective, the paper finds the scheme has not removed the barrier but simply lowered it.



Journal for Critical Educational Policy Studies;6 (1)


Institute for Education Policy Studies





Usage metrics

    University of Limerick


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager