Tuesday 12 December 2017

Fee-paying schools dominate race for university

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Money still talks when it comes to going to university, the 2007 college entry figures confirm.

Grind and fee-paying schools continue to dominate the tables of feeder schools for a number of leading third-level institutions.

Latest data also shows that geography plays a big role in student choice, with many school-leavers clearly opting for the most convenient college.

However, the prominence of the fee-paying sector will reignite debate about education equity and how wealthier parents can buy advantage by selecting schools with more resources.

Schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students and students with special needs complain that there is not a level paying pitch in education and argue that tables such as those published today are unfair.

Criticism of certain schools -- the fee-paying sector and beyond -- for not taking their fair share of students with special needs, prompted the Department of Education to conduct an audit to see if cherry-picking was going on, and the results are being analysed.

The college entry figures, publicly available for the first time today in the Irish Independent, cover enrolments in five of the country's seven universities and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).

The universities featuring in the lists are University College Dublin (UCD), Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Dublin City University (DCU), National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM) and University of Limerick (UL) .

Based on the figures, the Dublin-based Institute of Education -- the biggest and best-known of the so-called grind schools -- once again tops the league in the number of Leaving Certificate students who have gone on to university.

This may not be surprising, as the institute had 780 Leaving Certificate candidates, including repeat students, this year -- making its 6th year class alone as big, if not bigger, than the entire enrolment in many second-level schools. Of the first years enrolled in UCD this autumn, 254 -- 6pc -- sat the Leaving Certificate in the institute, a fifth and sixth form college, where fees are €6,350 per year.

That is more than double the number from the next nearest school, the fee-paying all-boys Blackrock College, which has sent 96 to UCD; followed by the fee-paying all girls', Mount Anville, also in south Dublin.

TCD has enrolled 113 students who sat the Leaving Certificate in the institute, three times more than the next nearest school -- the fee-paying St Andrews in Booterstown, Dublin, with 33.


The six colleges alone, between them, have enrolled 477 institute students.

Despite the prominence of the grind and fee-paying schools, the figures show signs of movement from last year with come schools up and some schools down.

The institutes, and other grind schools, which feature strongly in the league tables, have seen a growth in popularity in recent years, in part because of a drive by high-achieving students to gain high CAO points.

Fee-paying schools have also seen a steady rise in enrolments -- up from 21,372 to 26,400 -- since 1990 and many have long waiting lists. The abolition of third-level fees in the mid-1990s is reckoned to have influenced many parents to switch the money to private second-level education.

Fees in second-level schools for day pupils vary from about €3,250 to about €8,000, plus extras.


Enrolments at NUIM, UL and DCU are noteworthy for the draw of students from within their catchment areas with, for instance, Maynooth Post Primary School the biggest feeder school for NUIM; while Castletroy Community College, shares top billing with Limerick Tutorial Centre, a so-called grind school, at 77 students each in UL.

The dominance of the fee-paying sector is particularly evident in the enrolments for the two biggest universities, UCD and TCD, which have the highest concentration of private schools in their catchment areas.

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