Free lunchtime concert and lecture at the ILAC Centre

There’s a free lunchtime concert and lecture taking place on Thursday 11 May at the ILAC Library, ILAC Centre on Henry Street, Dublin from 12:45 to 2:30pm. This has been arranged by Maynooth University’s Department of Adult and Community Education ‘Communiversity’ and Music Department, as well as Dublin City Libraries. The event takes place

Dr Francesca Placanica and Aileen Cahill of the Music Department will perform a voice and piano recital. This will feature a lively array of songs from the twentieth-century. In addition, Dr Frank Cullen of the Royal Irish Academy will give a history lecture on the development of Dublin.

About Dr Francesca Placanica

Frencesca has studied opera and classical vocal repertoires, as well as opera acting and theatre acting techniques.

She won the International Solo Voice Competition Seghizzi (2007) in the Category “George Gershwin.” She graduated from musical institutions in Italy as well as the UK and the USA. Frencesca performs extensively as a chamber recitalist soloist in Europe as well as Canada and the USA. She holds a PhD from University of Southampton and is a twentieth-century vocal performance scholar.

Frencesca is currently hosted at Maynooth University, where she is an artistic research fellow. She is also the Principal Investigator of her Irish Research Council funded “En-Gendering Monodrama: Artistic Research and Experimental Production” (2015–17), mentored by Professor Christopher Morris. Her experimental productions are currently touring Ireland. She will also be touring Europe. For more information, please visit her website.

Aileen Cahill, Piano

Aileen Cahill completed her B.A. and Masters in Solo Piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. In 2007, she was awarded the prestigious Maura Tessier Piano Bursary for further study. She continued her studies at the Conservatory of Music D.I.T. In 2011, she graduated with a Masters in Piano Accompaniment. She has won many prizes for solo piano as well as concerto, organ, chamber music and piano duet. In addition, she has won prizes for vocal and instrumental duo at various music festivals throughout the country.

Aileen is a regular soloist with the Budweis Philharmonic Orchestra (Czech Republic) at the Musikakademie, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, as well as with the Sligo Baroque Orchestra. She continues to compete internationally as a soloist. She recently participated in competitions in Taranto, Cantú and Val Tidone in Italy.

Dr Frank Cullen

Dr Frank Cullen works in the Royal Irish Academy on the Irish Historic Towns Atlas project. He is author of Dublin 1847: City of the Ordnance Survey, published by the Royal Irish Academy in 2014. He obtained his PhD in Irish history from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth in 2005. His research compared the cities of Dublin and Belfast in the nineteenth century. His expertise is in urban history with specific interest in the city of Dublin in the early modern and modern period.

Frank is a recent addition to the Communiversity tutoring panel. He will give a short lecture on the development of the City of Dublin using an array of maps from the medieval to modern period.

For more information on the Communiversity, click here.


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USI condemns proposed student loan scheme

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) says that a student loan scheme is not an effective way to fund college education. They have a point. Large numbers of students in the UK and US graduate severely in debt. In addition, student leaders claim that setting up a loan scheme would be expensive. The also say that it would result in a new emigration ‘brain drain’.

The Cassells Report

President of USI Annie Hoey criticised the proposal.

“Less than a month after the Larkin Report which pointed out the long-term economic and short-term financial shortfalls of an income-contingent loan scheme, the Government is trying again to obscure the facts and create the impression that the only viable funding mechanism for Higher Education is a loan scheme,” said Ms Hoey.

“The Cassells Report showed that properly tax-funded higher education is a viable option, whereas a €10bn loan scheme favoured by Government right now is an attempt to borrow now and move the mess of repayment down the track,” she added.

The Cassells Report by the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education recommended three funding options. One of these was replacing upfront fees with loans provided by the State.

Loans would be contingent on earnings. In addition, loans would have deferred repayments until a graduate was earning over a certain amount. The maximum monthly payment would €160 until the age of 33.

Loan scheme equivalent to reintroducing fees

USI claims the scheme is “out of touch with the reality of graduate salaries.”

“With the average salary in Ireland around €46,000, graduate salaries in Ireland are around €28,000, and significantly lower in Dublin,” Ms Hoey said.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry the loan scheme was simply a way of reintroducing full fees.

“The introduction of any student loans scheme amounts to the re-introduction of fees. It would be a regressive step which would effectively remove education as a right open to all.

“Over the last number of years we have seen huge increases in fees through almost yearly increases in the registration charge. The loan scheme would be full fees being re-introduced through the back-door.”


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Maynooth University ranks as one of the world’s Top 50 Young Universities

Great news for Maynooth University! The university entered the Times Higher Education’s (THE) Top 50 Young Universities at #49. This is the highest ranking achieved by an Irish university on this listing.

Maynooth University has performed well on international rankings lately. In addition to making the Young University list, it was named among the top 400 universities in the world and the top 200 European universities. Furthermore, Maynooth University is one of the top 200 universities with strongest international connections.

How the rankings work

A number of criteria affect the Young University Rankings. These include research income, teaching reputation, numbers of PhDs awarded, the number and quality of scholarly papers, as well as citations from staff and numbers of international staff and students.

Maynooth jumped 18 places since 2016. As a result, it is now Ireland’s foremost young university.

Huge endorsement

Maynooth University President, Professor Philip Nolan commented: “This is a huge endorsement of the University’s strategy to see Maynooth performing so strongly in terms of its perception by its international peers. It is just 20 years since Maynooth University was established as an independent institution by the Universities Act of 1997, and this is a huge endorsement of the hard work, research impact, and exceptional teaching on the part of the entire university community.”

Established as an autonomous university in 1997, Maynooth University is now Ireland’s fastest growing university. The institution has with more than 11,000 students. This includes almost 1,600 taught postgraduate and professional students and over 400 research students. The University has more than 70,000 alumni around the world.


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Essay mills come under fire

The Department of Education is to introduce laws to prosecute essay mills – companies who write students’ essays in exchange for money.

These paid-for essays are original work. However, someone other than the student writes them. As a result, cheating students can bypass a college’s plagiarism detection systems. Plagiarism detection works by comparing a student’s work to already published material. Contract cheating using essay mills is much harder to detect.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton plans to give powers to prosecute companies offering paid-for essays. He is also considering banning them from advertising.

Bruton said the department would consult education providers, students and other relevant parties, as well as look at recent UK research, before drawing up guidelines to address the problem.

Extent of contract cheating unknown

The extent of contract cheating in Ireland is unclear. Figures from The Irish Times suggest that around 1,000 students faced disciplining for plagiarism since 2010.

However, it is suspected that the number of cheating students is significantly higher.  Figures are difficult to gauge as a number of universities and education providers have not revealed figures. Penalties for students caught cheating range from written warnings to disqualification for repeat offenders.

Just another online resource?

An Irish company, Write My Assignments, describes itself as “an online education development company offering support to private individuals and businesses by qualified writers and researchers.” It claims that anyone using its services should reference the company as they would “any other online source.” However it seems likely that many of those using such services do not reference an essay writing service.

Write My Assignments claims they complete around 350 assignments each year and that demand for their service is growing.


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Could Brexit be an opportunity for Irish universities?

Global education firm EduCo International Group has claimed that Brexit offers a major opportunity for Irish universities. The company plans to set up an Irish branch to attract international students.

Dwindling number of international students in the UK

The number of international students applying to UK colleges is falling. However, international applications to Irish universities are up by 17 percent this year.

EduCo International Group plans to grow the number of undergraduate as well as postgraduate students coming here from China, India and South-East Asia.

Partnerships with Maynooth University and Dublin City University

EduCo, along with Maynooth University and Dublin City University, will provide pathway programmes to prepare international students for university study.

These integrate students into the university campus. In addition, pathway programmes offer smaller class sizes and more contact hours. As a result, international students have a greater chance of success.

Jacob Kestner, head of EduCo in Ireland, believes that Brexit has made international students wary about applying to UK institutions.

“Where international students are choosing to study abroad, increasingly they are not going to the UK. Our education agents – who recruit international students – tell us there is real concern over the UK closing its doors. This is a real Brexit opportunity,” he said.

This could be great news for Irish universities who wish to attract lucrative international students. Furthermore, this aligns with Irish government policy, which hopes to attract an additional 10,000 international students by 2020.

Enhanced visibility for Irish universities

DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said the partnership with EduCo will increase the visibility of Irish universities. In addition, Ireland will become a destination of choice for international students.

“As a globally engaged university, DCU is very excited about this opportunity to advance our internationalisation strategy and attract greater numbers of high-calibre international students,” he said.

Philip Nolan, Maynooth University president, called the EduCo partnership “a major step forward in the internationalisation of Irish higher education.”

Furthermore, Nolan said the university had doubled its international student numbers over the past five years. However, the university is keen to grow its global reach.


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Demand for SUSI student grants expected to be high

From Monday, 3 April 2017 the SUSI student grants reopens. The demand is expected to be high, particularly as maintenance grants for postgraduate students have been made available.

Students in the lowest income category can apply for the postgraduate maintenance grant, worth almost €6,000. In 2012, the government stopped funding for postgrad maintenance grants.

This is part of a scheme to help disadvantaged students. Grants are also on offer for lone parents and Travellers.

€380 million in student grants available

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) administers the student grant scheme. SUSI will provide €380 million in student grants. These will benefit more than 80,000 students.

Another key change is the “Second Chance” provision. Mature students who attended but did not complete an approved course will be able to apply for a grant as new student. However, the student must have had a five-year break in studying to be eligible.

Breaking the cycles of disadvantage

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton said third-level education “has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage”.

“I would encourage students who think they might be eligible for support to submit their online applications to SUSI as soon as possible to ensure that they are processed as quickly as possible.”

The closing dates for the 2017/18 student grant scheme are July 13th for new applicants and June 15th for renewal students.


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Mostly good news on this year’s CAO points

Many students sitting the Leaving Cert spend a lot of time worrying about CAO points. The points for third-level courses can fluctuate. This makes it impossible to know how many points students will need for their first choice courses.

There is mostly good news for the more than 52,000 people who received their first CAO offers this morning. The points for two-thirds of college courses are unchanged or down on last year.

The numbers of students hoping to study engineering or technology has increased. However, this means that entrance to these courses is more difficult. Around half of the 140 engineering and technology degree courses need higher points than last year. However, points are down for a third of them.

Entrance to University College Cork’s engineering degree is up 75 points to 490. According to UCC’s admissions staff, this is due to a 50 percent increase in students choosing this as their first preference.

The points for most university arts course are unchanged or down. NUI Maynooth’s arts degree requirements are down by 20 points. However, UCC’s arts programme is up by 5 points.

Calls for CAO policy review

Mark Rogers, deputy president of University College Dublin, has called for a review of the subjects required to be eligible for university degrees. He says that Leaving Cert students are often obliged to sit exams unrelated to their preferred college courses.

“Educationally, it is better for students to take subjects that interest them at school rather than forcing them to take subjects purely to matriculate for university,” he said.

Since 2011 there have been calls for universities to reduce the number of degree choices available by merging entry routes to broad arts, engineering and science streams. Most universities have yet to do so, with the exception of UCD and Maynooth. The vast number of specialist degree programmes means that students need near-perfect Leaving Cert results for some  courses.

It is significantly easier for students to get a place on a Level 6 higher certificate or Level 7 ordinary degree course. These are accepting students with 300 CAO points or less. Ireland’s institutes of technology run most of these courses.



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10 Tips for Settling Into Your First Year at College

Moving to college is a big step and can be nerve-wracking, but it’s also a very exciting time. Settling into a new routine and being independent doesn’t need to be difficult. There are a number of ways to help you settle in quicker and make your first year at college run smoothly.

We have teamed up with The Student Housing Company to give you some pointers for your first year. Whether it’s coping with homesickness or making new friends, there are many ways to combat any potential struggles in your first year in order to make the most of your full college experience.

1. Keep On Top of Your Studies

Adapting to a new study routine can be particularly challenging in your first year at college. If you are feeling the strain of a heavy workload and are unsure where to start, it really helps to prioritise your tasks. Make a note in your calendar of when pieces of coursework need to be completed and build a study schedule around that.

It’s also worth keeping a calendar of when your lectures and seminars are, especially in your first few weeks, so that you don’t forget anything. You could even print out a copy to carry round with you. Staying organised is essential to keeping on top of your studies and meeting deadlines. Allotting time to certain tasks and setting yourself goals will instantly relieve the stress of juggling deadlines and will help you to transition from school to college.

2. Make Friends In and Out of Lectures

One of the best aspects of going to college is the people you will meet. Whether you live in a houseshare or halls, and whatever course you study, you’ll have the chance to make a ton of new friends. You can also make friends through any sports teams or societies you sign up to.

It’s important to take a break from your studies now and again to have fun – building a good circle of friends will help you create the perfect balance between study-time and socialising, letting you settle into college life much quicker. Having people around you to talk to if you’re struggling really helps too.

3. Battle Homesickness Head On

It’s likely that every student will, at some point, feel a bit homesick, especially during the first few weeks of being at college. Just because you’ve moved away from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch. It’s so much easier to stay in contact with friends and family now. There’s nothing wrong with regularly calling your parents or friends from home, or even video-calling them through programmes like Skype and FaceTime.

The majority of universities will have strong transport links too, so you can easily book a train home to visit friends and family, whether on a weekend or during reading week. Keeping this level of contact can help ease the feelings of homesickness.

4. Make Your Room Homely

When you’re packing for college, don’t forget to include some of your favourite things from your room, from photos of your family and friends to personal knick-knacks. You can use these to decorate your new room, making it feel much more homely. Having familiar things around you will help the transition away from home and also alleviate any homesickness.

5. Take Every Opportunity Available

There is a lot more to college than just studying. Be open to new opportunities to better enjoy the college experience – every college will have a wide selection of opportunities, both social and study-based. University is the perfect time to try out new things, whether it’s joining a sports team, signing up to a society, taking part in a volunteering scheme, or learning a foreign language.

You never know what doors these experiences will open. Taking part in extracurricular activities is a good way of meeting new friends and growing new skills. By the time you graduate from college you will be able to impress future employers with these external pursuits.

6. Find Your Way Around Campus

Whether your college campus is spread across the city or self-contained, it can be all too common to get lost from time to time. Try to become familiar with the campus as soon as you arrive, as this will help to take the stress away from getting to your lectures on time.

In your first few weeks it might be a good idea to carry a map of the campus around with you, just in case you get lost. Plan ahead if your lectures are in a different location that you’re unsure of, and research how to get there (Google Maps should do it). Also, don’t be afraid to ask other students when you’re on campus – they should be able to point you in the right direction.

7. Set Yourself a Budget

Before you even get to college, make sure you know how much your accommodation is going to cost every week and what the monthly bills will come to. This will help you stay on top of your expenses and know how much money you are left with for food shopping, study materials and socialising.

Where possible, try to set yourself a budget around this and stick to it. Hitting your overdraft can cause unnecessary stress. Many first-year students decide to get a part-time job to help manage their finances better, but you should only consider a job if you have enough time to fit this around your studies and other activities.

8. Talk to Your Tutors Regularly

Building a strong relationship with your tutors can really help your college journey. They are there to guide you through your studies, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling with a particular assignment or piece of reading. The more comfortable you are talking to your tutors, the easier it will be to get help when you need it.

Every tutor will have periods away from teaching, so you will be able to book an appointment to talk through your queries, or even send them a quick email. Tutors understand that your first year at college can be overwhelming and are there to offer help along the way.

9. Know Where to Find Help

Adapting to a completely new routine for your first year at college can be especially stressful, so it is essential that you know where to find help if you need it. Every college has a specific student support team that is there to answer more general queries across a wide range of topics, from money worries to health issues. Be sure to make use of this service if you need to. The staff will be specially trained on all aspects of college life and if they can’t directly help you, they will be able to refer you to someone who can.

10. Get Creative in the Kitchen

If you are planning on living in self-catered accommodation, you will need to cook for yourself. This doesn’t need to be hard though. There are plenty of recipe books and websites aimed specifically at students and that offer easy, quick and healthy recipes which don’t require you to be a professional chef. When you’re living in shared accommodation, you could also make cooking tens times easier and more fun by cooking together with your housemates. It will take away some of the burden and can also save money and avoid wasting food.

Leaving home and starting college is a big moment in your life. Following these tips will help you to settle into college life and adapt to your new routine.

The Student Housing Company offers stylish and comfortable private accommodation to students in Dublin.



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Construction careers on the rise according to CAO figures

New CAO figures show that students are increasingly opting to study for careers linked to the construction industry. Architecture, engineering and business courses are among the most popular for students entering college this autumn.

Applications for higher degree courses linked to the built environment are expected to increase by 20 percent in the next month. Engineering and technology should be up 7 percent. A 6 percent increase is expected in both law and architecture applications.

Policy and industry groups will welcome the rise in applications for technology and construction courses. It is predicated that the skills shortage in these sectors will soon reach crisis levels. There is already a significant shortfall of information and computer technology professionals as well as qualified construction personnel.

Tom Parlon, director general of the Construction Industry Federation, says the construction sector is buoyant.

“We’re hiring at a rate of about 1,000 jobs a month,” said Parlon. “There has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of architectural roles available this year.”

Arts are down but not out say CAO figures

Applications for arts and social sciences are down by 3 percent. However, arts is still the most popular degree programme. Arts is the first-choice for an honours degree for 16,000 college applicants.

The number of college applications has increased overall as well. Population growth and promotion of higher education is seen as responsible for this. However, the surge in applications is believed to be putting pressure on the third-level education sector. Furthermore, applications are projected to rise by up to a third over the next ten years.

The message that higher education is necessary seems to have been clearly received.  Ireland has the highest proportion of young people with third-level qualifications across the European Union.


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Fees and performance targets for third-level funding may be on the way

Fees and performance targets for third-level funding may be on the way. Minister for Education Richard Bruton is drawing up plans that would reward or withhold additional funding for third-level colleges depending on performance. A college’s ability to train students to meet the workplace skills gap, as well as a college’s number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be considered.

The minister is expected to reveal his plans once a much-anticipated report on the future of third-level funding is published. The report, prepared by an expert group and led by former union leader Peter Cassells, is expected to conclude that third-level funding is urgently in need of reform and that Ireland’s social and economic development is threatened by the current state of third-level education.

Student numbers are expected to grow by 30 percent over the next eleven years, and it is believed an additional €1 billion will be needed to cover the increased demand for third-level education.

Three options for third-level funding

The draft report from the education expert group has suggested there are three options for third-level funding. These are the “free fees” system; a student registration fee of €3,000; or a loan system based on income.

The loan system would allow students to study without paying any fees upfront. Fees would be paid once the graduate had earnings reaching a set threshold. The report suggests that a middle-income graduate could pay off a student loan of approximately €16,000 over 15 years at rate of around €25 a week.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have voiced concerns over a loan system for education. However, Mr Bruton has said third-level education faced significant challenges that could not be ignored.

“There are no easy solutions here but I believe that if we are to prosper and grow as a society and an economy we must build a consensus and make some big decisions in this area. ‘Do nothing’ would be to fail future generations. I look forward to discussing these issues with colleagues in the Oireachtas and other stakeholders and building a plan that can deliver on our goals in this area,” he said.

Expected performance targets for third-level funding

The Minister is expected to set out a number of performance targets for third-level colleges. These should include:

  • Providing 50,000 upskilling and reskilling third-level places over the next five years. These are to meet gaps in the economy and to support lifelong learning
  • An increase of 7 percent participation in third-level education by Ireland’s most economically disadvantaged communities
  • A 25 percent increase in the number studying on a flexible basis, including online and part-time learning options
  • A 25 percent increase in the number of students undertaking a work placement or work based projects
  • A 30 percent increase new research enrolments



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