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College-bound students opt for choices closer to home

THE vast majority of the country's students don't stray too far from home when they go to university.

Although the seven Irish universities all aspire to be national institutions, new figures show they are essentially regional in nature.

And none is more so than UCC where 60pc of first years in 2008 were from Cork city or county while a further 32pc were from the neighbouring counties of Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary.

Only 8pc of those who enrolled on the basis of last year's Leaving Cert were from further afield.

Trinity College Dublin had the next highest score from its home county with 55pc of first year students coming from Dublin city or county and 12pc more from Meath, Wicklow and Kildare.

UCD was close behind with 52pc of new entrants with their Leaving Cert coming from Dublin city or county and a further 11pc from the same three surrounding counties.

Intake

The capital's third university, DCU, had a 48pc intake from the home county and 13pc from Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. In the case of NUIG, 35pc came from Galway city or county and a further 26pc from counties Mayo, Clare, Roscommon, Offaly and Tipperary.

Only 23pc of first-year Leaving Cert entrants in UL came from Limerick city or county, with 40pc from counties Cork, Kerry, Clare and Tipperary.

The smallest university, NUI Maynooth had a 19pc intake from Co Kildare with 38pc coming from counties Dublin, Carlow, Laois, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow, according to an analysis of the first-year intake carried out by a top academic.

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Peter Mannion, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, said he was not surprised at the figures. "When I was going to college it was almost inevitable that I would go to NUI Galway," said the union leader who hails from just outside Tuam.

He said that the regional universities marketed their programmes very well among second-level students who realised there was no need to travel to Dublin to specialise in particular areas. Cost was also a factor, he added.

The introduction of top-up fees in the UK is creating a similar situation there, he said.


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