Colleges draw heavily from fee schools, figures show


Students who attend private fee-paying schools and the Republic's largest grind school are better represented at UCD and Trinity - the State's two biggest universities - than pupils from other schools, new figures disclose.

The figures show that the Institute of Education in Dublin provided more new entrants to UCD and Trinity last year than any other school in the State. It costs over €4,400 a year to study full-time at the institute.

The details obtained by The Irish Times also show that nine of the top 10 schools providing first-year students to UCD last year were fee-paying. These schools charge, on average, between €2,000 and €5,000 a year.

The new figures show that 113 students from the institute went to UCD in 2001/2 and 75 went to TCD. In contrast, students from working class areas are poorly represented. With some exceptions, students from vocational schools are poorly represented also.

Last night, Mr Colm Jordan, president of the Union of Students in Ireland said the new figures were "shocking and scandalous". It was now clear for the first time that "what matters is the ability to pay, not the ability to learn," he said.

The latest figures will likely increase the pressure on the Minister for Education, Mr Dempsey, and the colleges to widen access to third-level. The Minister has already expressed unease about the way certain social groups are poorly represented in many leading colleges.

Last week, the Minister was severely criticised by the Opposition when €36 million in education cutbacks appeared to target disadvantaged groups. Some €5 million was cut from an access programme designed to send more students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to third-level.

The figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act give a general overview of third-level access rates. They show the total number of Leaving Certificate students from each second-level school in the Republic entering UCD or Trinity last September.

However, the totals are partially influenced by the size of the school. For example, the Institute of Education has far more Leaving Certificate students than many smaller schools.

Nonetheless, the figures confirm the trend identified by the Higher Education Authority expert Dr Patrick Clancy earlier this year. He found that students from homes headed by semi-skilled or unskilled workers make up 0.49 per cent of all third-level students.

UCD in particular has a very large representation of students from south-side fee-paying schools. Nine of the top 10 schools providing students to UCD were fee-paying. The Institute of Education provided 113 students to UCD last year and the most students to Trinity- 75 in total.

Other schools which are very well represented are Wesley College, Ballinteer, Dublin (37), Portmarnock Community School, Dublin (30), Loreto, St Stephen's Green, Dublin (29), Alexandra College, Dublin (28), St Andrews, Booterstown, Dublin (28), Coláiste Mhuire, Naas, Co Kildare (25), Blackrock College, Dublin (24), Belvedere College, Dublin (23), High School, Rathgar, Dublin (22) and Mount Anville, Goatstown, Dublin (22).

Reacting to the figures last night, Dr Don Thornhill, chairman of the Higher Education Authority said they spelt out in graphic terms the difficulties often faced by lower socio-economic groups in securing a place in the universities.

The figures, he said, confirmed those in the Clancy Report that higher socio-economic groups could expect a university place while students from lower social groups had only a 28 per cent chance of going to university. Despite the figures, solid progress was being made, he said. In 1980, only 3 per cent of students from lower socio-economic groups reached college.

University: Who Goes Where? Over the coming weeks, The Irish Times will detail the student intake of the five other universities.