A record number of 317 1st year students from DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) institutions has been announced by UCD. This marks a 7.4% increase on the 2019 rate of 271 students coming from 103 DEIS schools.

These increases coincide with the introduction of an additional 323 1st year places in response to “points inflation pressure” caused by the use of predicted grades for the Leaving Certificate class of 2020. 

UCD Deputy President and Registrar, Professor Mark Rogers has welcomed the development, commenting that: “We are always interested in encouraging students from non-traditional feeder schools, especially DEIS schools such as the Community School, Balrothery, Tallaght, which this year sent ten students to UCD, up from four in 2019 and Mount Carmel, Kings Inns St, Dublin 1, which sent five students to us this year, up from one last year. And that, “Back in 2017, 5.8% of first years came from DEIS schools and we are very pleased to welcome and support these students. There are now 103 DEIS schools sending students to UCD.”

NUI Maynooth has registered 16.5% of incoming 1st year students as coming from DEIS schools while Dundalk IT recorded 24.5% and IT Letterkenny allocated 46.8% of its first-year undergraduate places to DEIS students.

Over 25% of those who secured a place in UCD (1000) and Trinity College Dublin (638) in 2020 studied for their Leaving Certificate in a fee-paying school.

These increases broadly follow national trends with the Irish Times reporting a record number of 63.5% of DEIS students progressing to third-level institutions this year, an improvement on last year’s progression rate of 57%. However, social class and attendance at private fee-paying schools still account for the majority of incoming 1st year students, with fee-charging schools making up nearly half of the 20 schools with the highest progression rates to high-points courses. 

Indeed, over 25% of those who secured a place in UCD (1000) and Trinity College Dublin (638) in 2020 studied for their Leaving Certificate in a fee-paying school. Disparities also persist in the demographic composition of high-points courses. In 2019, it was revealed that despite “affluent” persons forming only 15% of the national population, they were disproportionately represented in courses such as medicine where more than 1 in 3 students was from such a background. 

Commenting on this issue in 2019, then UCD Students’ Union President Joanna Siswierska remarked that, “This is a systemic issue and a question of social justice for all of us in society – why do we allow a system to remain in place which perpetuates this kind of inequality? Education should enable access to a better life and standard of living and the aim should be to reduce inequalities, which reduces pressures in society and benefits everyone.”

Overall, DEIS schools have benefited from the introduction of the predicted grades system with marked increases on progression rates in comparison to previous years. However, it is unclear whether this rate will be sustained into the future as the Government has signalled its intent to return to traditional examinations in 2021. 

Rowan Kelleher – Assistant News Editor