Is a Trinity degree worth more? Tech entrepreneur hits a nerve

Web summit founder stirs debate by placing premium on qualifications from alma mater

The Higher Education Authority has distanced itself from a suggestion by board member Paddy Cosgrave that a degree from Trinity College Dublin has more value than an equivalent qualification from other Irish universities.

The Dublin Web Summit founder was today explaining his company’s decision only to recruit graduates who got a 2.1 degree from TCD or a first-class honours degree from the other six universities here.

The Summit has since clarified that the degree requirements are only applicable to internship programmes.*

Expressing concern about grade inflation in higher education, Mr Cosgrave - a TCD graduate who sits on the board of the HEA - said “a 2.1 in one university would not equate to a 2.1 in another university”.

He noted degrees in TCD operated on a four-year cycle whereby “outside of Trinity most of the degrees are three-year degrees and I think that makes a huge difference… and that’s primarily what we are emphasising”.

The same three- versus four-year distinction was made by employers in the US, he noted, adding: “For every position at graduate level that we advertise for, you get literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of CVs - and one of the problems we are consistently seeing is what I would essentially call grade inflation in some of the universities.”

A spokesman for the HEA stated Mr Cosgrave’s views were his own and not those of the authority.

“Employers hire people for different reasons and are entitled to run their business and conduct recruitment as they see fit and as the demands of their business dictate,” the spokesman added.

“Academic quality is extremely important, but what that means in practice varies, across levels of courses and types of institutions. Other graduate attributes are also relevant, including a more vocational academic programme, work experience, practical skills, involvement in college life, etc. This is the view that business expresses to the HEA and one which we share.

“The Institutes of Technology and other colleges have produced tens of thousands of excellent graduates and employment statistics show how successful they have been and what a significant contribution they have made to the career success of their graduates and to economic and social development.”

The Web Summit, now rebranded as The Summit, is creating 40 jobs, bringing total employee numbers to more than 90. Salaries for the new posts range from graduate entry level to more than €100,000 for the position of vice-president of sales.

This article was edited on May 9th, 2014. 

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column

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