Report finds that transport links affect choice of university

60% of UCD entrants come from schools within a 9 km radius

Direct bus services to UCD Belfield cover routes near those schools which send the highest proportion of students to the university. In contrast, there are no direct bus routes in west Dublin, where schools with the lowest rate of progression to UCD are located. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Direct bus services to UCD Belfield cover routes near those schools which send the highest proportion of students to the university. In contrast, there are no direct bus routes in west Dublin, where schools with the lowest rate of progression to UCD are located. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 01:01

A lack of adequate transport links to west Dublin is hindering access by disadvantaged students to universities, according to a study undertaken in UCD’s geography department. The researchers found that 60 per cent of UCD entrants last year came from schools within a 9km radius. They suggest homogeneity in student populations is being reinforced by the public transport network.

In a research paper Which university? A spatial analysis of progression to third-level institutions in the Dublin region, by postgraduates Richard Geoghegan and Seán Judge, point out that direct bus services to UCD cover routes near those schools which send the highest proportion of students to the university. In contrast, there are no direct bus routes in west Dublin, where schools with the lowest rate of progression to UCD are located.

While it is known that northsiders and southsiders gravitate towards their local universities, the researchers have mapped this trend to highlight public transport gaps. The found one-third of students from schools north of the Liffey, who progressed last year to one of the four east-coast universities, chose the Glasnevin campus of DCU. Similarly, the student base for NUI Maynooth in the Dublin region is notably focused in west Dublin, with the exception of the Institute of Education in the city, from which there is a relatively high progression rate to the Co Kildare campus.

However, progression to TCD “has a conspicuously extensive geographical catchment in comparison to the other universities”.

The authors say transport links may partially explain these patterns, especially in relation to UCD where there is “geographical inequity in access” to the Belfield campus. “There is a lack of an efficient transport service to the university with the exception of the N11 corridor, whereas the majority of the north, west and southwest of the region lack any adequate public transport service.”

Schools that are poorly served in terms of transport in the southwest and west, including Clondalkin, Tallaght, Palmerstown and Lucan, “demonstrate extremely low levels of progression” to UCD. In contrast, there are high rates of progression to the college from schools near the N 11.

Stressing that social and cultural barriers are more significant in determining whether someone progresses from school to university, they say: “Nonetheless, improved transport infrastructure and public transport services can widen access and facilitate the flow of students across the city.”