Finding a campus that suits your way of life
Surroundings, sports and societies are important too
The students’ bar at NUI, Galway. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
You’ll be spending a few years at college so be sure you like it. What you choose to study is important but so too is being happy with your surroundings.
What makes you tick? Old buildings? The city or a smaller town? State-of-the-art sports facilities? Arty types might feel most at ease in the historic surroundings of places like NUI Maynooth, Trinity College, UCC or NUI Galway, all tree-laden havens where you can sit and read amid centuries-old buildings. Others might find a modern campus inspiring, and should consider University of Limerick or DCU, both relatively new campuses.
In terms of equality, UL has the best staff gender balance at professor level: 37 per cent are women compared with the national average of 19 per cent.
Location, location, location
For centrality, you can’t beat Trinity, NUIG and UCC, at the heart of their cities making it easy to escape into the real world. DIT’s campuses are easy to navigate andin the city, with plenty of places to hang out.
If civic engagementappeals, often universities and IoTs are the lifeblood of their town, with connections to the wider community. For example, through Civic Engagement module at GMIT students work with the community and gain credits.
Engineering students teach computer programming at primary schools and new technologies to troubled teens, and work with charities to improve infrastructure. Culinary arts students cook and bake for local disabled children.
One in every three DIT students volunteered during 2012/13. Their students work with a range of charities including the Capuchin Day Centre, SVP, Reachout.com, Movember and Wells for Zoe.
Clubs and societies
These are vital resources where you’ll get to try new things. Aside from long-established and hugely popular big societies, such as debating or drama socs, many colleges have more niche interest clubs.
In UL, for example, Krav Maga, tea appreciation and skydiving are on offer, while Cork IT has societies for Anime and Manga enthusiasts, PC gaming, LGBT, trad, creative writing and even stand-up comedy.
The range of sports in Irish universities and IoTs is phenomenal, but some have better reputations for specific activities.
UCD’s relatively new sports centre is superb and has a 50m pool, plus windsurfing, sailing and boating. UCD’s Soccer Superleague is loved by students and craic is almost as important as winning. Teams are usually created by gangs of mates, often boasting amusing team names – such as Pathetico Madrid, Sporting Lesbian and Tuesday Wednesday.
If cricket is your thing, Trinity is the only Irish university playing league cricket; Dublin University Cricket Club is one of the oldest in the country.
DIT is very successful in sports, with over 40 clubs open to all from unfit slugs just wanting to make friends, to high-performing athletes. In 2012/13 DIT had a particularly good year, winning the Sigerson Cup – the premier men’s college Gaelic Football Championship (UCD has the most titles, with 32 over the cup’s 100-years).
Last year DIT did well in men’s soccer, winning the Premier East Division League and All Ireland College and Universities League.
DIT has refurbished its Fit2Go Club at Kevin Street (and sister club in Bolton Street). Kevin Street has a good gym and 18m pool. Some seriously good sports facilities are planned for the new Grangegorman campus.
Waterford IT has opened a sports campus in Carriganore with three multisport grass pitches, grass training areas and Astro Turf pitches. WIT College Hall has basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, indoor tennis, table tennis, gymnastics, Olympic handball and hockey, plus sailing/surfing in Dummore East and Tramore.
NUI Galway’s facilities include a 25m pool, squash and racquetball courts, a basketball arena and sports hall with seating for 600 spectators.