“I had an amazing experience while doing the Scholars Ireland programme! After doing the programme, I can say that I am not the least bit scared for college and I’ve developed a keen interest in STEM!” – Theertha

Scholars Ireland 2019-2020 wrap up

At AccessEd, we have been celebrating the achievements of participating pupils and PhD tutors who have completed both the Autumn and Spring cohorts of the 2019-2020 programme!

Scholars Ireland increases access to higher education for students from under-served backgrounds in Ireland by offering pupils an authentic experience of university. Together with the PhD researchers who act as their tutors, pupils explore undergraduate-level topics that are based on their tutor’s own research, undertaking a unique course and in-person university-style tutorials.

The programme sees that 7 in every 12 pupils registered met one or more of five high-need criteria for selecting pupils on in third-level education in Ireland for the programme; this is critical in AccessEd’s mission to bridge the gap on higher education for young people from under-represented backgrounds. 

2019/20 Snapshot

  • 325 pupils taking part in the Scholars Programme

  • 22 schools taking part across Ireland

  • 24 Trinity College Dublin PhD students trained as tutors

Thanks to our partnership with Trinity College Dublin's Trinity Access Programme (TAP) we have reached over 800 students and 26 schools in the past three years.

Case Study: Inspiring the next generation of STEM

Theertha’s attitude towards science changed after she met Deirdre, her Scholars Ireland tutor and a PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin, and took part in the programme. Deirdre was one of seven female researchers out of the nine who delivered STEM-related courses on the Autumn programme.

Meet Theertha

Name: Theertha
Year: Transition Year 
School: Assumption Secondary School 
Course name: Smart Anticancer Agents and Light Activated Chemistry
Tutor: Deirdre McAdams, Medicinal Chemistry PhD


 What were your initial expectations for your course on the Scholars Programme?

“When I found out that I was going to study a science course, I was thoroughly disappointed! I didn’t have very high expectations for the course. I have always hated science because it seemed very boring to me. I still remember telling my friend about how much I would probably hate it. Well, I was very, very wrong!”

What do you think of your course now that you have completed it?

“I loved every minute of it! It was so fun to learn about cancer and anticancer agents. It helped me better understand what I was doing in my science classes which made them more enjoyable. I liked the course so much that I ended up choosing chemistry for my leaving cert, whereas before, I wasn't even going to pick a science subject!”

How has the Scholars Programme influenced what you want to do next?

“The programme made me consider a career in STEM for the first time in my life and got me super excited to learn more about it in college. It showed me that college was totally achievable and there was nothing to fear or dread. After doing the programme, I can say that I am not the least bit scared for college and I’ve developed a keen interest in STEM!”

Theertha’s tutor Deidre said…

"Theertha was a great student to have in my group, I am so glad I could inspire her to consider the sciences!”

A Medicinal Chemistry graduate, Deirdre had already completed a fellowship centred around improving access to university for low-income students before joining AccessEd as a tutor. AccessEd has been delighted to support Deirdre in her development as a teacher after working together for now on 3 placements. The Scholars Programme plays a key role in supporting a student’s subject understanding and depth, alongside building their self-confidence in their abilities to thrive on a complex course. We look forward to continuing our work with scientists like Deidre to support the next generation of young women to see how STEM careers and studies could be the right fit for them.

Theertha has since chosen chemistry for her Leaving Certification and is excited to start a career in STEM.

Programme impact

Theertha and Deirdre’s story is not an exception.

Our data clearly shows that Scholars Ireland is increasing university readiness among students and giving them confidence in their own abilities. 86% of students completing the evaluation survey for the Autumn and Spring programmes indicated that they are more likely to apply to university after completing the programme. And Theertha is only one of many students for whom Scholars Ireland opened a path that seemed inaccessible before.

78% of students surveyed in the Autumn and Spring cohort said they were more likely to apply to the university that they attended for the programme launch event. 

But it’s not just the pupils that benefit from the programme. For our programme tutors, teaching is a two-way street. As our university PhD tutors encourage their students to tackle academically challenging material, they receive training and support on translating complex research for non-academic audiences and understanding of wider subject use and engagement. PhD students improve their understanding of pedagogy and cognitive learning processes, giving researchers a way to share their work more widely and build a portfolio of research.


We are delighted to celebrate the achievements of all pupils and tutors on the Scholars Ireland programme!

For more details on programme impact, watch out for our 2019-2020 Scholars Ireland impact report coming shortly.

What to know more about the programme or are interested in hearing about our work and partnerships in Ireland? Email [email protected] for more information.