What do Ireland’s students really think about fees, their University education and their future?Posted: August 3, 2012
The trendence European Graduate Barometer surveys third-level students across Europe and their attitudes towards education, careers and other more general topics. It gives a unique glimpse into the thinking of Ireland’s current generation of students and contrasts it with their European peers.
This year, 5,780 Irish students completed the survey. When asked whether they thought students should pay for higher education, 16.6 per cent agreed, while the majority (62.2 per cent) disagreed. This places Ireland’s students firmly in the ‘mainland Europe’ camp, in line with French and German students’ opinions. Students in Germany and France are used to making a relatively small contribution to their undergraduate courses (although some Masters courses can cost several thousand euros). In contrast, UK students have been paying substantial fees for third-level education since the 1990’s, and yet over a third agreed that they should pay fees.
Given that the Irish government’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 explicitly states that ‘a new form of direct student contribution’ will be introduced to part-fund higher education, the findings suggest that a future conflict may arise between Irish students and the government. The extent, timing and nature of this ‘direct contribution’ will undoubtedly have a massive impact on the educational and social landscape of Ireland in years to come.
Given that fees will be introduced in the not-too-distant future, it is relevant to ask students whether they feel further education will equip them with the necessary skills to be successful in the labour market. 58.8 per cent of respondents from Ireland believe their course will provide them with these skills, while only 16.1 per cent disagree.
This is a positive response in comparison with our European neighbours (and competitors in an increasingly global jobs market). Only half the students surveyed across Europe believe that their course will provide them with the necessary employability skills, with this figure dropping even further to 33 per cent in Germany. This supports a finding in the recent gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey, which indicates that over 35 per cent of Ireland’s graduate employers consider Ireland’s graduates to be better prepared for employment than graduates from other countries.
Despite displaying confidence in their qualifications and ability, the trendence European Graduate Barometer reveals that Ireland’s students are highly aware of the contraction of the graduate jobs market, and are pessimistic about their future. Two-thirds of respondents stated that they were worried about their career prospects, ten per cent more than the European average.
In fact, 27 per cent of Ireland’s students believe they will have to emigrate after graduation in order to find their first professional position (this is on a par with the European average). This figure is a startling illustration of the mobility of the graduate labour market within Europe. Yet again, it highlights the challenge that the next generation of Ireland’s graduates, and indeed many students across Europe, will face to secure a good job and a bright future.