By Dan Walsh
Senator Malcolm Byrne has outlined the importance of the planned university campus for Wexford as well as the need for greater supports for disadvantaged students in County Wexford as new figures from the Higher Education Authority show that Wexford students are among those across the country who travel furthest to college, as well as national concerns around high dropout levels by disadvantaged students.
The HEA’s analysis shows that Wexford students travelling furthest from home to college in the South-East and among the longest distances in the country.
As with most areas across Ireland, the relationship between Leaving Certificate points and affluence is evident. Kilkenny is the least disadvantaged area in the region and Leaving Cert points are highest there on average.
Carlow and Wexford are the most disadvantaged and have the lowest Leaving Cert points on average in the region. This relationship is most obvious in the areas around Kilkenny City and West Waterford, (Editor’s Note: I wonder would this statistic have any relation to the Gaeltacht region in west Waterford?) which are the most affluent areas in the region and where students score higher mean Leaving Cert points.
Senator Byrne notes that students with lower Leaving Cert points are less likely to enter high points course such as medicine or law, but are also more likely to leave college early.
“Having Wexford as a University Town from next year will be transformational for the county and will make higher educational opportunities more visible locally,” said Senator Byrne, who added: “We still have a big challenge for disadvantaged students and we need to improve career guidance at second level as well as providing more second chance education and training opportunities,” said the Gorey-based Senator who worked with the Higher Education Authority for twelve years prior to his election to the Oireachtas and chairs the South East Oireachtas Group on the Technological University.
“This century is about the battle for knowledge. I passionately believe we have to prioritise upskilling all Wexford people, of whatever age, if we are going to be able to compete in a rapidly changing digital world,” he concluded.