Bright lights big city - choose your destination


A city by city guide to university. Compiled by GRAINNE FALLER, LOUISE HOLDENand JOHN HOLDEN

CITY GUIDE: DUBLINToo big for some, perfect for others, the capital has everything you could possibly want. Reinvent yourself, stay exactly as you are, nobody will be any the wiser. Dublin is a city with colleges and students rather than a real university town like Galway but there are plenty of student promotions and places to go. You just need to know where the action is. Your choice of venue will likely depend on your college. Each scene is different. Just get out there, make friends and have fun. This time next year you’ll know it like the back of your hand.


What’s hot?Dublin City University is one of Ireland’s youngest colleges and most of the facilities are state of the art.

What’s not?Despite being located in Ireland’s capital, DCU is just that little bit too far away from the city centre. So bike, bus, car or magic carpet is necessary to get into town.

On the town:Matt Weldon’s is the local haunt while The Twisted Pepper in the City Centre is also popular.

Most played song in the college bar:Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen.

Right-on credentials:DCU has always been excellent on welfare and disability issues. They are also strong on LGBT awareness campaigns, healthy eating and suicide prevention.

Event of the year:Hard to pick one out. But the Nubar and Venue in the Hub host all manner of talent throughout the year. Previous acts to perform in DCU include: 2unlimited, Abbaesque, Alabama 3, The Coronas. Plus you have the Helix venue right on campus too so you never know what might be on.

If this college was a band it would be:Daft Punk – refreshing but strangely familiar


What’s hot?If you like things big, UCD is Ireland’s largest university with over 25,000 students and counting. Pretty much everything you need is already on campus – books, food, accommodation. With this magnitude on its side, UCD literally has something for everyone, unless you’re agoraphobic.

What’s not?Size isn’t everything as the UCD Belfield campus is quite a sprawling monster. It’s probably a good country mile from one side to the other.

On the town:Harcourt Street’s clubs and bars have always been popular with UCD students. The street is particularly entertaining for sober anthropology or sociology students who can find excellent examples of strange human behaviour, especially late on a Thursday or Friday night.

Most played song in the college bar:Ireland’s Call.

Right-on credentials:UCD has always been very responsible about recycling and the promotion of green policies. Plus it has run several campaigns over the years banning the sale of products on campus that are known to be infringing on human rights in other parts of the world. UCD is also one of the best educational institutions for access learning.

Event of the year:The UCD Fresher’s Ball. It sells out every year and always gets the cream of international and local acts on the bill. Recent headliners have included Tinie Tempah, Simian Mobile Disco, The Blizzards.

If this college was a band it would be:New Order – the architecture may be grey and dated but it’s quickly becoming retro chic.


What’s hot?It used to be its location in the heart of the city, but now that the Grangegorman campus has been given the go-ahead, it will be its state-of-the-art campus outside the city.

What’s not?The spread out nature of DIT across the city centre makes it harder to build a sense of a DIT community. Your lecture could be in any one of 39 locations at the moment.

On the town:DIT doesn’t have its own bar. Students drink in the Living Room, Solas, Karma Stone and Bodkins bar.

Most played songs:Each campus plays host to very different students from business students in Aungier St to engineers in Bolton Street, so top songs range from We Are Young by Fun to Ride On by Christy Moore.

Right-on credentials?A lot of DIT’s societies are passionate about their aims. LGBT society won best society in DIT’s Society awards this year and do a lot to represent the LGBT movement. Mental Planners lead a very strong “Green” initiative and host Green Week each year.

Event of the year:This is an easy one. Last year the DIT RAG ball was hosted in the O’Connell Street complex composed of the Living Room, Murrays and Fibbers with a line-up including Dr Lektroluv and DJ Rankin.

If this college was a band it would be:The Bingo Players – house and dance music were big in DIT this year.


What’s hot?The coolest campus in the country. Stunning, ancient and right in the middle of things. TCD is also Ireland’s most famous university with the best international reputation.

What’s not?Its central location can also be a hindrance. Food, drink and accommodation are expensive in the areas surrounding Trinity.

On the town:The student bar, The Pav, is a popular spot among students of Trinity, and hosts regular live gigs and themed nights. City centre nightclubs such as Coppers, Doyles and The Village are also frequented.

Most played song in the college bar:Angels by Robbie Williams, apparently. We’re surprised too.

Right-on credentials?Considerable. This year Trinity is pursuing a green flag campaign for the college. Trinity also has a vast network of volunteering initiatives and the Student Union bans the sale of Nestle products in its campus shops, in response to alleged ethical abuses by that company in Africa. Until recently, the sale of Coca Cola was forbidden in SU shops, in response to alleged human rights abuses in South America.

Event of the year: TheTrinity Ball. It’s one of Europe’s largest private parties. In the past, acts for the ball have included Mark Ronson, Dizzie Rascal, The Streets and Jessie J.

CITY GUIDE: CORKBig enough to get lost, but small enough to avoid getting swallowed up in, Cork has a lot going for it as a student city.


What’s hot:International travel. UCC students are keen participants in Erasmus programmes and they grab any opportunity to study abroad.

What’s not:Choosing the wrong course. Coursehub.iereviews for UCC are overwhelmingly positive. But the people who chose a course that didn’t suit them are a bit miserable.

On the town:Tuesdays and Thursdays are the big nights out. There are two college bars on campus. The Old College Bar is in the restaurant block and Club Áras is in the student centre. Societies and clubs hold their events in these two venues so theres normally something going on most nights.

Most of the big nights out end up in Cork city though, Washington St to be precise. Havana Brown’s and The Roxy are two of the more popular clubs while The Bailey remains a popular late bar.

Of course its not all about alcohol and the Mardyke Entertainment Complex offers activities such as bowling and pool.

Most played song in the college bar:Levels by Avicii

Right-on credentials?Well theres Raise and Give Week (see below) and good deeds are rewarded and encouraged with student leadership awards. There are efforts underway to recognise extracurricular activities and achievements on college transcripts. Watch this space.

Event of the year:Raise and Give Week


Whats hot?The atmosphere on campus is said to be cracking. There are great sports facilities and the courses are designed with the jobs market in mind.

Whats not?Theres no bar

On the town:Eclipse (dedicated student club), The Bailey, Suas, Sober Lane, The Loft Student Bar

Most played song in the college bar:Well theres no bar but Titanium by David Guetta is frequently heard when CIT students are around.

Right-on credentials?CIT with support from the Clean Technology Centre (CTC), has acquired Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant aid to help green its Bishopstown campus in a major environmental project

Event of the year:CIT Safety Week. Safety third!

If this college was a band:Maroon 5. They got those moves..

CITY GUIDE: LIMERICKIf you've never been there, you’ll be surprised at how nice it is. We all know what a bad reputation Limerick has in the press but in truth those issues are confined to a tiny area in what is otherwise a lovely, vibrant place. The Shannon is the standout feature, but Limerick has all manner of gorgeous old buildings that stand alongside brand new shops and bars. Of course if you’re into rugby in any way shape or form, it’s the place to be.


The lowdown:The most popular university in Ireland according to a recent vote, UL is also among the top 100 young universities in the world according to The Times higher education magazine. UL will be celebrating its 40th year as a university in the coming academic year, so you’ll have a fun start. The campus is lively and sports mad. There’s a great support programme to get you through the first seven weeks of college and learning support is available.

The Erasmus programme is one of the largest and most successful in the country. The college trades on its excellent student supports and graduate employability as well as a network of over 1,700 employers to provide internship places for UL students each year.

What’s hot:CAO points. UL is offering 40 scholarships worth €2,000 to students who perform exceptionally well in the Leaving Cert.

What’s not:Taxis. The campus is a little outside the city so transport is often an added cost onto a night out.

On the town:A big night out would generally involve a trip into Limerick. There are plenty of spots that are favoured by students. Icon nightclub and Angel Lane are two hotspots. Molly’s is the late bar of choice whereas Dolan’s is a good spot if you’re into your music and like going to gigs. The campus bars, Scholars and the Stables also play host to bands on occasion.

Most played song in the college bar:Wannabe by the Spice Girls. Spotting a pattern here. The west coasters seem to like their ironic pop.

Right-on credentials?The UL Presidents Volunteer Award is a pretty comprehensive way of rewarding students’ volunteer work and civic contribution. It’s a bit like the Gaisce in that students can go for a gold, silver or bronze award. Students can apply every year. There’s also a pretty active raising and giving society on campus and the kayaking society volunteers its services regularly to the search and rescue efforts on the coast

Event of the year:Student race day. Everyone dons their glad rags and heads off for a day at the gee gees.

If this college was a band it would be:Two Door Cinema Club – easy on the eye, crazy talented, new album coming out, will they live up to their early amazingness?

CITY GUIDE: WATERFORDThey’re proud of the sunny southeast moniker, whether the weather cooperates or not. Waterford is a nice spot. Good nightlife, nice cafes, the city has taken a battering in the downturn but its pulling itself up by the bootstraps.


What’s hot:Very student focused staff and small class sizes which definitely helps with the learning experience. Events in the College Bar are always top quality and theres always something to do regarding clubs and societies on campus.

What’s not:Waterford used to be “stuck” in the south east of Ireland and not the most accessible but with the new motor way its only an hour and a half from Dublin and on all major bus and rail routes. We even have an airport. Parking can also be an issue but the college are taking a number of positive steps to try alleviate the problem such as setting up satellite car parks and providing a park and ride service.

On the town:The Dome Bar is our on-campus spot for food and entertainment during the day and for events at night. It has one of the best reputations in the country as a student bar and continues to deliver top-quality themed nights throughout the semester.

Most played song in the college bar:Chase the Sun by Planet Funk has been the favourite song/chant for the past few years

Right on credentials:Bewleys Beeco Green Cafe is located upstairs in the Gallery Restaurant. The campus has a green flag for recycling and recycling on campus. All coffee sold on campus is Fairtrade.

Event of the year:Raise and Give week where over €30,000 was raised for charity in four days.

If this college was a band:Aslan – massive following but not yet counted among the big boys

CITY GUIDE: GALWAYAh Galway. Perched on the Atlantic and divided by the pretty Corrib river, theres always something going on there. The feel of the place as you wander down by the Spanish Arch, maybe grabbing some McDonagh’s fish and chips nearby. The small stuff is what makes it – the market on a Saturday, the better-than-average buskers, the fact that you can walk from one end of the city to the other without exhausting yourself. It’s no wonder people never leave.


The lowdown:Worried about the recession? All but four per cent of the graduate class of 2011 have found jobs or gone on to further study. More than two-thirds of all programmes having either a placement, internship or a community engagement module built in. The college has done well in international ratings systems. New BA in drama, theatre and performance studies in the home of the Druid theatre company can’t go wrong. There’s also a swanky new engineering building to behold.

Whats hot:Clever clogs. If you get more than 560 points in the Leaving Cert, NUIG will give you an excellence scholarship worth €2,000. There are ten scholarships available to medical students as well as a variety of sports scholarships.

What’s not:The weather. Cross the Shannon and youll be greeted by that filthy rotten misty wet rain – well, nine times out of ten. It rains a lot. Way more than on the east coast. Damn Atlantic or some such.

On the town:The scene is changing in Galway, lots of the old reliable clubs have changed ownership and are being rebranded. CPs is now the Electric Garden for example. The Bentley is opening in the premises formerly known as Cuba. Competition for business is fierce. Where students end up going remains to be seen but there are different venues for every night of the week. The Róisín Dubh remains a fantastic spot for gigs and the Salthouse is a lovely pub for anyone whos into craft beers. The outdoors life is great in Galway. Kayaking, windsurfing, swimming – down time doesn’t always involve pubs.

Most played song in the college bar:Never Forget - Take That and Cest la Vie - B*witched. Theyve a curious sense of humour.

Right-on credentials?They take their volunteering seriously in NUIG. Engineers in Ethiopia and teachers in Tanzania. The work happens closer to home as well. NUIG offers a presidential award in the form of an Alive certificate to students in recognition of voluntary efforts and extracurricular activities.

Event of the year:Rag week is no more so the commerce ball is probably the big one. Sources say that the SU has something brewing. Watch this space.

If this college was a band it would be:Mumford and Sons – easy on the eye, a bit raggle taggle and folky, great for a party and everybody loves them.

CAMPUS GUIDE: MAYNOOTHDublin's country cousin is a charming little spot with the leafy university campus at its heart. Just half an hour from the capital, the town itself is a lovely self contained place. Everybody will know your name within a couple of months so if its anonymity youre looking for, youre choosing the wrong place. For a friendly home away from home however, you cant do much better.


The lowdownNUIM is the highest placed Irish university in the new world ranking of young universities. In 2012, the college became the first Irish and only international university outside North America to be listed in the US Best Colleges publication by The Princeton Review. The campus is pretty and friendly. Indeed if youre keen to go to a college that can offer a personal touch, NUIM might just be for you.

Whats hot?Books. A new €20 million library is due to open in September

Whats not?Anonymity. Want to just get lost in a sea of people, meeting new faces and having new experiences every night of the week? NUIM may not be for you if so.

Out on the town:The college bar is a lively spot with gigs and DJ sets on offer. Calvin Harris played there last year dont you know. The Roost is the student local off campus. Dublin is only a hop, skip and a jump away but generally students stay local. The Students Union is active and drives a lot of the events. Societies and clubs organise nights and events as well.

Most played song in the college bar:Tough to say as the playlists are good and eclectic. Lets just say Princess of China - Coldplay and Rhianna.

Right-on credentials?The SU run Mental Health Week, won the Best Campaign award from USI. Theres an active Amnesty society on campus and class reps get acknowledgement of their efforts on their transcripts.

Event of the year:Freshers’ Week

If this college was a band:The Black Keys – small band, surprisingly loud.