Old-school tie: Trinity vs UCD
According to Sugrue, the prevailing stereotypes are that “Trinity students are snobby and that UCD students are culchies”. She also says that “because for some subjects the points are lower”, sometimes “UCD students are a bit insecure and think that TCD students look down on them”.
This has been a bone of contention since Duffy’s day. “I remember at one point in my time there was some dispute and we were occupying the JCR [Junior Common Room], the building over the front gate in Trinity. It was UCD rag week, and all these UCD students gathered outside, shouting up at us, ‘Oxford rejects! Oxford rejects!’ ” he says. “We shouted back at them, ‘Trinity rejects! Trinity rejects!’ ” They were “silly tribal loyalties,” he says, “Elizabethan garden-party nonsense from a different era.”
The current crop of students cling to their minor differences with a spirit of fun. Recently Trinity’s Hist and UCD’s LH had their annual Colours debate: the topic, last used in 2002, was that “this house would rather iron its genitals than go to Trinity”.
There are pragmatic arguments for and against merging TCD and UCD, but for many it’s really an emotional issue.
“Which is a pity,” says Duffy. “Anyone from outside coming into this country would look at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and say that they should merge. It’s the same with Trinity and UCD. But if you seriously advocate a merger you’ll end up being in this surreal debate about tradition . . . “Anyone who argues otherwise proves that there really is life on Mars – they’re that out of touch. It’s never going to happen.”
The arguments for a merger
Closer ties would “offer an end to the ‘insidious partition’ and ‘truceless cold war’ which have heretofore been a blot on our higher education”This is how the HEA saw things in 1970, as quoted in Diarmaid Ferriter’s Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Things are arguably a bit less sectarian these days, and there’s already a lot of collaboration between UCD and TCD.
Economies of scaleThe former attorney general Peter Sutherland caused a furore in 2010 by saying: “Ireland cannot afford to keep seven universities at world-class research, education and training levels.” He, and the writers of the new report, say that by stopping unnecessary duplication of departments and facilities, a better outcome could be achieved. It’s claimed that a TCD-UCD union could improve their overall rankings, which help attract both high-fee-paying foreign students and international funding. Others say that this would not happen and that many universities at the top of the international rankings are quite small.
It would create a hybrid form of stereotypeA West Brit superculchie, probably wearing a cravat and a hurling jersey, doused in fake tan and smoking a pipe.