More decline in North-South relations?

Today’s article by Simon Doyle in The Irish News highlights again the continuing decline in everyday interaction between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

A new taskforce set up the the Department of Employment and Learning has revealed that less than 1 per cent of students at universities south of the border are from Northern Ireland. This trend has continued a decline that has been going on since 2004 despite the fact that it is cheaper to study in the Irish Republic than it is in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the UK.

This decline is alarming when you consider the universities such as Trinity and UCD have for decades been a major destination for both Catholics and Protestants from Northern Ireland. Moreover, since 2003, there have been massive improvements in the road and transport links between places like Belfast and Dublin. Yet students are opting to pay more to go elsewhere. My question is why?

I remember when I was at school and friends of mine have confirmed to me that it was a similar situation at their schools that the possibility of studying south of the border was rarely mentioned. In addition to this. there was next to no information about courses that were offered. Should we urge our schools to do more to make students aware of what’s on offer in places like UCD and Trinity?

This again is another example of a continuing decline of everday interaction between the two Irish states. Over the past year, I count three North-South projects stalling, a major decline in shoppers coming North and a lack of public interest in the entire process. Where has it all gone wrong?

Update- Courtesy of Phil Flanagan MLA-This issues was examined in Stormont last October

 Update- Todays Irish News (3/9/13) has an interesting article on this with comments from UUP MLA Michael McGimpsey who attended TCD. It’s worth buying the paper to read the article and editorial calling for action on this issue in its entirety but here’s an exerpt of what he had to say

‘It would be ashame if young people were being precluded or restricted when they should be encouraged.’  

McGimpsey also spoke about the strong tradition of NI students going to university in the Republic.

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  • Coll Ciotach

    Lack of shoppers?

    3 North South Projects stalling? I presume that you mean the Carlingford bridge vanity project which was doomed once it was shown that it had a basis in fantasy financial figures, the A5 which also was blown out of the water once the construction bubble burst, I do not know the other project you are referring to so I cannot comment, so as far as I can see they are doomed from the outset by the simple combined facts that the benefits gained did not justify the expense or the finance required did not exist. These projects would have failed if they were based in Clare or Antrim, the border had minimal influence.

    The university figures are interesting. Perhaps the universities in the south do not market themselves enough, that is an interesting one considering that it appears cheaper. However on closer inspection it appears that the movement is in anyway significant hovering around 700-1000 and in fact increasing in the last year figures (2011-12). I do however wonder about the authors lack of references to student flow from South to North. That has changed dramatically in numbers if not percentages, is the author suffering from a partitionism that only sees things from a wee nordie or even worse Belfawst mindset? I would say that the lack of students from the north in the south is based on a lack of tradition – nothing more or less. To change it may need more marketing but to paint it as anything more than that is as far fetched as a bucket of China’s finest.

    I do not see any great decline in interaction between the two regions. Seems pretty much the same to me on the social side of things.

    As for a lack of public interest – perhaps it is because that the current state of interaction is normal.

  • David McCann

    I was going off a report Belfast Telegraph did last year which showed a £270 million decrase since 2009 in N-S trade.

    In terms of Unis going from South to North-I did look but could not find figures for that demographic. Ironic normally I get criticised for focusing too much on the South. Also this decline is only a recent thing as normally Trinity etc got huge numbers of NI students.

  • Barnshee

    “Also this decline is only a recent thing as normally Trinity etc got huge numbers of NI students.”

    Not really– Magee in Derry used to be a college of Trinity (referred to as the back door for peoples who failed to get into Queens) It fell out of favour when Magee joined the UU

    NS trade has always been largely a one way ticket the huge Booze and oils imports -legal or otherwise- dwarf any traffic the other way. — I struggle to isolate any material traffic the other way.

  • gendjinn

    Please provide the data otherwise these relative statements of decline are meaningless.

    In my own personal experience, I might precisely one person from Northern Ireland attending Trinity during my undergrad. So I’m not sure the numbers were ever that high to begin with.

    The cost of living in Dublin has skyrocketed in the last 20 years, has that been factored into the relative costs of a Dublin education?

    On the other hand the number of northern reg cars in the south has increased from virtually zero to commonplace since the GFA.

    Your thesis is based on a single data point, that is suspect at best, you ignore every other measure of north-south relationships. The fact that the DUP is crapping on north-south projects has no bearing on north-south relationships, it’s got everything to do with the DUP, and Robinsons growing leadership problems.

    Thesis rejected.

  • David McCann

    These figures are in Doyles report 23% drop in number of NI students in TCD since 2004. Hardly a small drop you’d agree?

    Dublin is dear however compared to fees you pay across the water and the more expensive travel to get there overal the South is still cheaper.

    Also the Centre for Cross-Border Studies whose job it is to monitor this has urged the governments to tackle this decline as the highlight the lack of information being given about Southern institutions in NI.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Significant percentages? when you are talking about a small cohort small numbers cause apparently large percentage swings. The drop in numbers between 2004-2005 and 2011-2012 is 121 students. Not a lot to write home about. I am glad that the Centre for Cross Border Studies has asked for more info to be supplied.

  • antamadan

    The college thing seems absolutely incredible to me. The world rankings show UCD and Trinity well ahead of Queens, but most nothern reports ignore world rankings completely, and only report on UK rankings.

  • megatron

    What percentage of college students in Connaught/Leinster/Ulster are from Munster?

    I wager its lower than you think. There is loads of north/south interaction around the border and huge numbers of northerners working in south everyday. Drive on M1 anyday and loads of interaction will be seen.

  • gendjinn


    These figures are in Doyles report 23% drop in number of NI students in TCD since 2004. Hardly a small drop you’d agree?

    If it’s a drop from 4 to 3, then yes it’s a small drop? Without more of the data it’s impossible to draw any conclusion. Coll Ciotach refers to a drop of 121 from 526 to 405.

    I don’t see 500 students being a great driving force between north & south.

    All due respect but your entire thesis is lacking merit.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I am not sure were the Bel Tel got their figures from, (no snide remarks about mixing up trade and distro figures from the cheap seats please), but that is not the figures I have seen. Here you go. Fill yer boots.

  • I find the lack of interest in studying in the Republic to be very surprising and short-sighted. I would think that purely on national-ideological grounds, Irish would be open to studying in the Republic. And even among the British there are advantages for students in some subjects such as business, politics and history. For those planning to go into business in NI, the Republic would be a leading natural export market along with Britain on purely geographic grounds. Therefore being acquainted with business practices, legal requirements, etc. in the Republic would seem to be advantageous, although with both the Republic and the UK in the EU this is less important than the situation was a few decades ago before both became EEC members in 1973. Seems like a poor job of marketing by universities in the Republic.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I also found this on the web. which seems to blow the point made on the thread to pieces as well.

  • Coll Ciotach

    And whilst I am on the subject here is some more info from the graudian. Note how hard it is to meet entry requirements in the south.

    Tuition fee €2,250 (£1,760) student contribution for 2012/2013, expected to rise to €2,500 (£1,955) next year. Students also pay “capitation” fees at institutions such as University College Dublin (€183/£143) to cover facilities such as its 50m pool. Private universities charge around €5,000 (£3,900) a year.

    What’s available Seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and a number of private universities. Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin are ranked in the world’s top 200 universities.

    Entry requirements Tough. Based on points score in the Irish Leaving Certificate (six subjects, maximum 600 points for six As). A British A grade is worth 135 points, so students will need four good A-levels to obtain a place a leading university. Irish universities do not make conditional offers. No one receives an offer from an Irish university until they have received their grades.

    Grants/Scholarships No Irish state grants for UK students. Individual universities have limited scholarships/exhibitions for top students.

    Accommodation Not cheap. As an example, University College Dublin this year charges €486 (£380) per month.

    Living costs High, especially in Dublin, where the price level is similar to London or higher. Part-time earning opportunities more limited than in the past; the Irish unemployment rate is 14.8% compared with 8.1% in the UK.

  • John Ó Néill

    The data Coll Ciotach is quoting is from last years CAO and doesn’t support a decline argument. Changing exchange rates and cost of living in Dublin (particularly rents) are factors in choosing UCD, Trinity, DCU, DIT etc and fluctuate wildly year on year.

    I lectured in UCD for four years (up to 2009) and it didn’t do any student recruitment in the north so any rise in UCD would be a miracle. UCD, TCD and others are more concerned with recruiting international students as their fees are much higher. All have a strategic plan or business plan that will quote projected/targeted increases in revenue from international student fees. That’s where their promotional spends are going these days.

    The HEA (in the south) has occasionally published data and maps showing the geographic distribution of student home addresses for universities and institutes of technology. I’d guess you’d see a contraction in the catchment for each as austerity has taken hold and more students need to stay at home and commute rather than move away for college.

    And only the senior managements in higher education believe that being in the top 100/200 influences the consumer buying decision locally (again, it’s purely branding for international student recruitment).

  • DC

    Did the Stormont debate answer any of your questions? As I can’t be bothered reading it at length.

    One reason to study in the UK is that it has a larger potential job market to move into after study, if having studied in a very large city i guess you will have a base there in that city, a springboard, and perhaps networks (maybe part time working opportunities as part of that) and therefore can use your base to apply for work after finishing your degree.

    Whereas if you studied in a smaller city and get stuck for work you might have to start afresh and cold somewhere bigger, may as well opt at the outset for universities close to big cities for more opportunities?

    As pointed out above, if you were English, you might opt to go to Dublin as it is cheaper and then move back to England when finished to access its larger job market, but this is a different experience than say for someone from NI moving to Dublin and then having to go look for work in England anyway, if nothing works out in Dublin/Belfast/Ireland.

    If it were me, I would move to a big city in England over Dublin but if I were English and lived already in a big city with family there, I would move to Dublin to study if it worked out cheaper and then move back and look for work.

  • cynic2

    I think its more basic.

    For many of the professional occupations eg medicine or law the points needed to get into a top Irish university equated to 5 A levels from the North. Few puplils here do 5 A levels. My son thought about law at Trinity but his 4 straight As weren’t good enough!!! He read law in England at a top Law School, got a 1st and now works as a lawyer in the City

    At this level in these subjects the competition is always going to be brutal but I cannot believe that the points awarded for British and Irish qualifications are fairly balanced.

  • feismother

    I think there’s a cyclical nature to the popularity of Irish universities among Northern Irish students. I attended Trinity in the 1970s (pre-CAO) and a number of potential NI students were brought to an Open Day in order to tempt us. My husband was a medical student there at the same time.

    The cost of living in Dublin and many degrees taking a year longer than elsewhere (bar Scotland) are probably the main reasons for the decline. I think Dublin is still very popular with South Down/South Armagh students.

    I’m also aware of a number of Northern students (I’m in Derry) opting to attend IT colleges. Sligo and Letterkenny both seem to be popular. That’s a new phenomenon.

    For our own children Trinity was their second choice and they would have gone there if they hadn’t made it to their English university of choice. There are plenty of Dublin graduates living and working with them in London at the moment.

  • Seamuscamp

    Dear dear. That cliche about a little knowledge has at least a kernel of relevance here.

    In a previous article, about emigration (which he seemed to think was a new phenomenon), Mr McCann demonstrated a lack of statistical skills. Charles Gould observed: “I do think you are a little cavalier about the statistics” and proceeded to blow the thesis out of the water. Mr McCann’s reply was interestingly naive: “the reason I used so little stats in my post was deliberate because when we relegate this debate to X figures v Y figures it distracts from the real problem that people who I know for a fact did not want to leave had no choice as they couldn’t find work here.”

    So his argument was presented as a statistical fact, but was in fact an underresearched bolster for a personal anecdote.

    In the current case there is the same underresearched statistical naivety.
    No hard figures yet “a 25% drop” postulated as significant ; a report in the Tele accepted as accurate without further checks and without context (there has been a recession, which has affected trade between all regions in Europe).