New research published by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) indicates that UCD and IADT have the highest percentage of students from affluent backgrounds. UCD, along with UCC and RCSI, have the lowest proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 34% of students in UCD come from affluent backgrounds while only 5% come from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Published on October 21st, the Higher Education Spatial & Socio-Economic Profile presents eye-opening data on the backgrounds of Irish students. The data was collected from all publicly funded institutions except Trinity College Dublin. The report shows a detailed make-up of the geographical and socio-economic make-up of Ireland higher education institutions. 

Letterkenny IT contains the highest percentage of students from a “disadvantaged” background, standing at 24%. The report suggests the socio-economic profiles of students attending the institutions “reflects the socio-economic makeup of their location.” 

student centre

The maps shown below outlines the locations of students enrolling in UCD. The report says that “UCD enrolments come from across the Country but with a concentration in south Dublin. Certain areas of north Dublin City and south west Dublin have relatively few enrolments. […] The mean distance from UCD students home addresses to the college is 77km (33km median), the mean travel time from home addresses to the college is 61 minutes.”

Although the report paints a highly advantaged picture of UCD, with high levels of affluency and its location in one of the wealthiest parts of the country, UCD Students’ Union President Joanna Siewierska had a different story to tell. In a comment with the Irish Times, Siewierska commented on the report’s findings: “Many of our students are really struggling with paying rent and buying food while in college – the two most basic necessities for students, […] even those who can afford to pay Dublin rents can find themselves struggling in today’s reality where there is not enough accommodation units for everyone.”

Associate Professor Michael O’Connell of the UCD school of sociology came under fire last week from a letter of his published in the Irish Times. O’Connell disputes the findings of the report by suggesting that socio-economic background is not as large a factor as expressed: “People with higher cognitive ability tend to do better in school, and are more likely to end up in occupations with higher status and more pay. Thus, they tend to live in more affluent backgrounds. Their children are therefore more likely to come from these backgrounds, and also to inherit higher cognitive ability.” O’Connell has been widely condemned by academics for his comments. 

Around 15-16% of the Irish population come from affluent backgrounds, yet 19% of the student body fit into this category. Courses such as Medicine contain much higher percentages with 36% of enrolments coming from “affluent” students. Only 3.5% of students come from a disadvantaged background.

Courses with higher proportions of affluent students were Medicine, Business, Finance and Engineering, while courses with higher proportions from a disadvantaged background were Agricultural, Environmental, Social Work and Childcare. 


Conor Capplis – Editor