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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WIT launches “Study in the South East” campaign in support of Three Sisters bid

Waterford Institute of Technology is encouraging parents and CAO applicants to consider the option of studying locally. This is not only financially sensible, but will offer significant benefits should the “Three Sisters” be named one the European Capitals of Culture this July.

Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford are working together as the “Three Sisters” to be named one the European Capitals of Culture. The Three Sisters are battling it out with Galway and Limerick.

Dr Derek O’Byrne, Registrar at WIT outlined the benefits to students who decide to continue to third level education close to home.

“A successful Three Sisters region bid for the European Capital of Culture will make Waterford city and the South East region an attractive place to be for the graduates of 2020. Many students starting at WIT in September 2016 will be the graduates of 2020. The economic benefits that a
win will bring is not just a greater appreciation for the value which creativity can bring and an increase in visitors to the three counties. We can expect improvements in investment opportunities and enterprise creation, which augurs well for employment opportunities for our future graduates,” he said.

Three Sisters 2020 Bid Director Michael Quinn gave his support to students and parents who see the value in studying locally. “We have the opportunity to imagine a new future for the region and for our children and grandchildren. This can be the place for them to realise all of their potential rather than having to move to a big city,” he said.

WIT is urging its graduates and students across Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny to do their bit for the bid for the European Capital of Culture to help create future opportunities for themselves.

“It is very important that the Three Sisters can show the EU selection panel the level of support there is in the region for this bid. The potential a successful bid creates for graduates is clear: the budget for the 2020 Bid is €31m, and the potential spin off for the region is estimated to be €170m and it will generate a massive surge in employment in an array of sectors. Also, with over 500 events scheduled the Three Sisters region will definitely be the place to be in 2020,” Quinn said.

Prospective and current WIT students and graduates can get their friends, colleagues and family to follow the Three Sisters social media accounts.

“We have many creative and entrepreneurial students and graduates across our 70 undergraduate courses. From English and Theatre Studies to Engineering, the Internet of Things, culinary and hospitality there are many ways people with ideas and talent can contribute the Three Sisters bid.”



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Surge in interest in Polish medical colleges

Over twenty students have already been accepted to prestigious Polish medical colleges this year before the Leaving Cert has even finished. Each year more school leavers are looking to add options for their future studies.

The Leaving Cert exams finish on until Friday, 24th June, and every year they cause stress to students and their parents, especially to those who aspire to become doctors, pharmacists or vets. Medical programmes are extremely competitive and difficult to get into. Limited number of places at home at RCS, TCD or UCD increase pressure on students to achieve excellent results at both the Leaving Cert and HPAT exam.

Many European countries, including Poland, do not have that extra barrier. Despite their excellent education systems, they offer more accessible entry criteria for applicants. This is one of the reasons why Medical Poland has seen a surge in interest and applications so far this year.

Professor Arkadiusz Jawien, a vascular surgeon and a Head of English Division at Medical Poland is expected to visit Dublin this summer to select the Irish students for one of the top Polish medical universities.

“We are preparing for 40 new Irish students this year. That means over three times more than the last year. Realistic entry requirements are not only reason behind Poland becoming so popular,” he explained.

At Poland’s prestigious medical schools, entry requirements are not solely based on the Irish grading system but on the strength of character and passion to study. That is why Medical Poland runs a number of information events to introduce Irish students to Polish medical colleges. A special event for accepted students and those interested in studying in Poland takes place just after the Leaving Cert exams finish, on 25th June at 9.15am in a Polish school based in St Declan’s College on Ratoath Road in Dublin 7.


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New Higher Certificate in Exercise & Health Fitness from Motions Health & Fitness

Motions Health & Fitness is a training provider that offers people who are interested in health & fitness the opportunity to work at what they love. Motions run a number of university accredited courses in Dublin for anybody interested in becoming a fitness professional. Personal fitness is now the most popular form of physical activity in Ireland. With growing numbers participating in all forms of exercise there is an increasing demand for fitness professionals to teach classes, design fitness programs and give guidance and support to people of all ages and levels of fitness.

Motions has just announced that they will be offering a new Higher Certificate in Exercise & Health Fitness course this Autumn in D.I.T. Kevin St, Dublin 2. This is a two year full time undergraduate course providing the opportunity to gain a university accredited professional qualification as a specialist fitness professional. The course is aimed at people who would like to work as fitness coaches, personal trainers, gym-instructors and studio teachers in all aspects of the leisure industry. The course is open to anybody with an enthusiasm and interest in health, fitness and physical activity and a desire to promote and teach this to others. The course offers advanced modules in year 2 thus allowing students to develop specialist areas of expertise.

The Higher Certificate in Exercise & Health Fitness (HCEHF) is the only university accredited specialist fitness qualification in Ireland. The HCEHF is accredited and awarded by the University of Limerick and all students on the Dublin course are registered UL students. There are other courses that take place in University facilities but they are not accredited by that University.

The HCEHF is a Level 6 major qualification on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). This Framework provides a way to compare qualifications and to ensure that they are quality assured and recognised at home and abroad. It is also on the European Qualifications Framework and it is an EQF Level 5.

In addition to the educational recognition, this qualification is also recognised as the highest Industry standard award by Europe Active. Europe Active represents the European Health & Fitness sector in Brussels. Europe Active is also a standards setting body for the health and fitness industry and promotes best practice in instruction and training. The HCEHF is aligned on the Europe Active Sectoral Qualification Framework (SQF) at Level 5. It has the highest academic standard of any fitness instructor qualification in Ireland and the highest industry recognised standard. The course is approved for SUSI grants for those who are eligible. Even though it is a third level course it is not subject to CAO application.

Motions continues to offer the Certificate in Exercise & Health Fitness which is the primary qualification for Fitness Professionals in Ireland. There are 2 part time options in Dublin City Centre, one a day course and the other a night course. The qualification is also accredited by the University of Limerick. Details of the courses are on

Learn more about Motion Health & Fitness here.


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