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ESF Funding for students with disabilities

Ireland's European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes 2014-2020 European Union Regional Development Fund

Irish Government LogoHEA Logo    
What is the ESF?

The ESF is one of the four European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds in Ireland. The ESF is the longest established ESI Fund. The other Funds are the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). For further information on the ESI Funds in Ireland visit their dedicated website http://eufunds.gov.ie/.

The European Social Fund created in 1957, is the European Union’s main financial instrument for investing in people. The specific objectives of the ESF are to help prevent and fight unemployment; to make Europe's workforce and companies better equipped to face new challenges and to prevent people losing touch with the labour market through investment in education, skills and employment support. By the end of the current round Ireland will have received over €7 billion from the ESF since joining the EU in 1973.  

Third Level Access

Third Level Access addresses the need to ensure attainment of skills at higher education level for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students with disabilities through the Student Assistance Fund and the Fund for Students with Disabilities. Supports include financial assistance to those facing economic barriers to participation and the provision of tailored accommodation and services. Information regarding the Fund for Students with a Disability (FSD) can be found at the Higher Education Authority website http://hea.ie/funding-governance-performance/funding/student-finance/fund-for-students-with-disabilities/


Criteria for the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD)

The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to higher and further education institutions to provide supports and services to ensure that eligible students with disabilities can participate on an equal basis with their peers. The Fund operates in addition to the legal framework supporting the rights of students with disabilities to access further and higher education. The FSD also operates in addition to mainstream resources and services already in place in higher education institutions.  The University makes the application for the funding to ensure that reasonable accommodations or/and supports are put in place for students for the duration of their programme of study.. 


Students eligible for support need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a verifiable disability

  • Meet the nationality and residency criteria
  • Be on a full time course

  • Have a verified need for specific supports to enable attendance on their chose course







The C-Pen Exam Reader pen scanner is an electronic pen the uses text to speech to read aloud printed text. The C-Pen Exam Reader is an orange portable, pocket-sized device that reads text out aloud with an English human-like digital voice used instead of a human reader.

This device means students who have reading difficulties such as dyslexia can independently take exams knowing that they can read and understand the questions.  Students using the pen bring their own in-ear headphones to use with the reading pen via 3.5mm headphone socket. All students are given the opportunity to train on the reading pen prior to exams.

The reading pens have been used in UL for the last four years by first years through to postgraduate students. The reading pen is also available as a reasonable accommodation in the Leaving Cert resulting in more and more students entering college and university already trained on how to use the reading pen in exams.

Below is a very short video on the exam reader pen.