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Where you live affects your life prospects, says report

WHERE you live in Ireland can influence your education and prospects in life, according to a new report.

Those living in the east and south do better than those in the border, midlands and western regions, known as BMW.

The geographical divide is highlighted in a new European Commission report called 'Mind the Gap', which looked at education opportunities and results across the EU.

The report tracks the educational qualifications of people aged 15 or over.

It found that there were proportionately more graduates and third-level students in the east and south, stretching from Meath to Wexford and across to Limerick/Clare, than BMW counties.

The BMW region covers Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo, Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

At the other end of the scale, the south and east have relatively fewer people with, at most, a Junior Certificate qualification -- 34pc, compared with 41pc in the BMW region.

The BMW region is more sparsely populated and more rural in character than the rest of the country, suffering more from migration to urban centres and abroad in search of work.

It is seen to suffer from having only one city, Galway, also the base of the region's only university, NUI Galway.

By contrast, the east has four universities, UCD, Trinity, DCU and NUI Maynooth, while the south has UCC and the University of Limerick.

The 'Mind the Gap' report warns that regional disparities hinder balanced development and economic growth.

It says that the gaps in educational standards encourage brain-drain towards the more developed areas and compounds inequality between regions.

In the wider EU picture, there is a north-south divide in educational attainment, with the highest rates of low-qualified people, with lower secondary education or less, chiefly found in southern European regions, and especially in Portugal and Spain.

Inequalities

In contrast, the regions with the lowest rates of low-qualified people are mostly found in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Geographic inequalities in education persist despite commitments by member states to promote equity in education and training.

EU education commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said all European citizens should benefit from high-quality education and training, irrespective of where they lived.

"It is time to deliver on the commitments which have been made. Tackling geographic inequality in education is a pre-requisite for balanced regional development and social cohesion," she said.

Ms Vassillou said European structural funds could and should be used to help address inequalities.

Irish Independent