It is shortsighted for school-leavers - and their parents - to shun Arts degrees


TALKBACK:This year’s crop of Leaving Cert students are abandoning Arts degrees

IS STUDYING an Arts degree a good idea in the current economic environment?

Clearly some students and their parents don’t think so. Applications for 1st Arts in UCD – the largest course in the State – are down by 11 per cent.

It all confirms a trend I have noticed in recent months at parent/teacher meetings.

Parents want good secure jobs for their children. They are much less ambitious or visionary in their chocie of college disciplines. They want their children to select a course which will give them a good chance of securing a job, any job for that matter.

This rising level of fear among students and parents is reflected in the initial application statistics to the CAO this year.

The downturn in Arts is the most striking feature.

Students and their parents are following the job trail. Applications for the booming agriculture sector have increased by 13 per cent and computer science almost doubled. Engineering is also up 6 per cent.

But everything is a cycle and we cannot predict the jobs pattern in four years or later when the class of 2011 will graduate.

From 2001 to 2003, the number of applications for computing degrees fell by about 70 per cent following the dot-com collapse.

As a result of that collapse in applications, industry leaders have complained they can’t find suitably qualified Irish graduates to employ in the ICT sector.

My advice? Those who are abandoning Arts should remember this pattern.

I understand that fear is totally natural response to our present economic predicament. But all cycles boom and bust. The prospects for Arts graduates could be very different in 2015-plus.

Maybe I am prejudiced as a UCD Arts graduate. But I believe the skills I acquired in studying the subjects which I was genuinely interested in at the time provided me with a very solid platform.

My degree and subject choices were not career specific at the time and the prospects of employment didn’t look great in the middle of the 1973 oil crisis.

But the world and the Irish economy moved on, as it inevitably will from the current crisis.

It is only natural that both parents – and to a lesser extent students – should be very much job focused when choosing college courses in the present economic environment.

But remember that to secure a job, following a rigorous interview process; you have to be the absolutely right person for the position from among the hundreds if not thousands of applicants.

By studying the subjects and disciplines, which you most enjoy, and those most in tune with your aptitudes skills and interests, you stand a far greater chance of being the successful applicant and securing that job.

Hold your nerve and study what you really want too.