UCC chief hits wrong target

UCC (Hugo Pardo Kuklinski via Flickr)

The president of UCC hit out at Access students for using too many resources. This article appeared in Sin on January 16 2012. 

So the best and brightest of Irish Leaving Certs, unwilling to mix with the plebs in Irish universities, are flocking to Harvard and Oxford? UCC President, Dr Michael Murphy, certainly thinks so.
In remarks made to the Cork Chamber of Commerce in December, Dr Murphy said that the pressure of providing access to university for disadvantaged, disabled and mature students was leading to “academically talented” students studying abroad.
“It has become unpopular, indeed politically incorrect, to voice concerns about the needs of academically talented students,” he said.
“There is extensive anecdotal evidence of many of our brightest students emigrating after completing Leaving Certificate for overseas education and never returning.”
Dr Murphy has rowed back on the remarks after condemnation from a number of Irish academics and Cork politicians. But is there any truth in the assertion that Irish students are leaving to go abroad?
There is a reason why Dr Murphy said “anecdotal” evidence. Over 71,000 students applied to the CAO in 2010 and 61,000 listed Irish colleges offering Level 7 and 8 courses as their first preferences. That’s 90%. The remaining 10% are dispersed among apprenticeships, FETAC courses, work, emigration, social welfare and studying abroad.
US colleges offer a small number of athletic scholarships. Northern colleges aren’t covered by the CAO, and UK colleges, especially in Scotland, offer medical and science courses that aren’t available in Ireland. With all this factored in, the numbers doing undergraduate courses aboard is miniscule.
Far more sinister is Dr Murphy’s assertion that “access” and “academically talented” are somehow mutually exclusive. It is true that some students benefit from the Higher Education Access Route scheme that offers courses on reduced points. However, there are strict criteria to meet, and it is designed to help students who cannot afford grinds or attend a disadvantaged school.
The majority of those who take part in Access programmes in universities do not need to go this route as they meet and exceed the points requirements for their chosen courses. The initiatives- orientation, small amounts of funding- are funded by the EU. Many access students go on to post-graduate education or work with not much more assistance than the general student population.
Dr Murphy seems unaware of what is happening on the ground in his own and other universities. Like many issues in Irish society, the wrong target is again under fire. Dr Murphy gets paid €232,151 a year, and it’s access students that are using too many resources?
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