Friday 18 January 2019

Surge in third-level entry from State-funded schools

Gap between private and public closing as further education seen as essential

Stock photo: PA
Stock photo: PA
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

College entry rates from State-funded schools are continuing to close the gap with the fee-paying sector.

There has been a seven-fold increase in the number of publicly funded schools to record 100pc progression to third-level since 2010.

A nationwide, school-by-school breakdown of the number of pupils going on to study for a degree is published today with the Irish Independent.

The tables in the annual Feeder Schools supplement provide a snapshot of "who went where" and confirm the growing appetite for higher qualifications, which are regarded as essential.

For years, private schools stood out in these so-called "league tables" because of the high transfer rates of their pupils to third-level. The 2017 figures follow the familiar pattern, with about half the country's 51 fee-paying schools recorded as sending all their pupils to higher education. Many others are very close to that.

The tables also reveal the ongoing surge in participation at third level by pupils in the free education sector, which covers about 670 schools. This year, almost 80 of these schools are showing progression rates of 100pc - up from 11 in 2010, and from 58 last year.

And in many other schools in the Free Education Scheme, progression rates of 80pc and higher are increasingly the norm. Within this sector, the cohort of all-Irish schools do particularly well, a picture that has also been evident in previous years.

Schools in disadvantaged areas continue to lag behind, with many showing a third-level participation rate of around 20-25pc or lower. However, there are impressive examples, such as St Dominic's Ballyfermot, Dublin, where 49pc of students are recorded as progressing to college.

The figures also confirm a geographic breakdown in terms of college entry. There is a pattern in Ireland of school-leavers attending the most convenient third-level institution, although in many cases the cost of living away from home is an important factor.

A notable feature of these tables every year is the high number of people from fee-paying schools who attend university, which focus on honours degrees, rather than institutes of technology, which offers honours degrees and lower-level programmes.

There is a high concentration of private schools in south Dublin with a very high proportion of their pupils going on to University College Dublin in particular.

These schools also send large numbers to Trinity College Dublin, Dublin Institute of Technology and Dublin City University. The picture is similar in Cork, where University College Cork appears to be the college of first choice for the majority of local school-leavers.

So, while the overall numbers going to college are rising, there are issues about a social divide, with certain segments of the population almost exclusively attending university, where they have access to courses leading to careers in elite professions such as medicine and law.

The college entry data for pupils from disadvantaged areas shows that they are less likely to attend university.

Other figures confirm that, on average, more SUSI maintenance grants are awarded to students in institutes of technology than to students who enrol in university, with UCD and TCD having the lowest proportion of grant-holders.

Irish Independent

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