University lobby group say college entry stats underline Southeast ‘brain drain’

A lobby group campaigning for a university in the southeast region say the latest Higher Education Authority (HEA) statistics on college entry reinforce the long-held view that the region suffers from an ongoing ‘brain drain’ with some of the highest achieving school leavers forced to leave if they’re to receive a university education.

The HEA figures for full-time students pursuing university programmes in 2006-’07 show that 1,321 students with home addresses in Waterford city and county were among 7,012 from the southeast who had left the region to study.

Some 174 of the Waterford students were at UCD; 654 at UCC; 51 at NUI Galway; 134 at Trinity College Dublin; 33 at NUI Maynooth; 60 at Dublin City University and 215 at University of Limerick.

According to Friends of the University for the South East (FUSE), the figures reinforce one of the central planks in the southeast’s argument for a university to be established in the region where a population of over 460,000 people suffer what has been branded as a form of education apartheid.

Dr Mark Rowe of FUSE said: “The HEA figures put numbers alongside what we have known anecdotally for many years now – that students from the southeast with the motivation, ambition, resources and exam results to attend university are forced to leave the region in droves each year. While this can sometimes be a positive developmental experience for the individuals, it places a considerable strain on their families. Very often, the traffic is one-way as they do not return to this region on graduation, thereby starving the southeast of talent.

“The reality is that students will always have a legitimate interest in leaving home to study. What we are fighting against is the current situation where southeast students have no choice but to do so if they want to attend university. A knock-on impact of this is that those students with the talent to go on to university have to hope their families can afford to support them living away from home – often in cities like Dublin and Cork where accommodation and other living costs are considerably higher.”

Dr Rowe said FUSE will continue to lobby Government and other public representatives until such a time as a positive outcome is achieved for the southeast. “While we’d obviously welcome a breakthrough shortly after what has already been a long journey, we are also willing to sustain this campaign drive over time if necessary. The bottom line for us is that the southeast can’t be allowed continue to lag behind other regions where social and economic development is driven forward by strong universities.”

* Further information on FUSE campaign is available at www.se4u.org

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