By Aoife Mullen
Almost half of final year students in DCU who won’t be applying for a postgraduate degree next year had intended to, but had to change their plans after the grant cuts announced in Budget 2012.
A survey carried out by The College View found that 45% of students will not apply for a postgraduate degree next year. It discovered that half of these would like to study at fourth level but can’t because of financial constraints.
One student said, “post-grad education has been made impossible by these changes”.
Over 40% of students said the cuts in postgrad supports had affected their overall plans for after they graduate.
Over half of students surveyed think the nature of their course requires them to do a postgraduate. A final year student of Contemporary Culture and Society told The College View; “I sincerely hope the postgrad cuts won’t affect my plans for next year. In order for me to get a decent job out of this degree, it would be required for me to do a postgrad or I am not sure what else I could do.”
Only 11 pc of students said that DCU’s Students’ Union has lobbied the government effectively on their behalf with regards postgrad cuts, with 38% answering ‘no’ and 51% answering ‘don’t know’.
One student felt; “the SU [Student’s Union] have been very lazy with regards to keeping students informed on what they are doing. This may be due to the negligible impact a single university can have in changing this decision.”
Eighty per cent of students surveyed said they would like the Students’ Union to lobby on their behalf with regards postgrad cuts.
Education Officer of the SU, Cillian Byrne told The College View; “no lobbying has yet occurred but hopes and plans to start applying pressure are in the pipeline.
“In terms of plans to lobby, the survey will be a huge starting point. We also have plans of advising students to put pressure on their own TDs to highlight how many potential future members of the workforce they are hindering from further study in light of the SMART economy that they are continuously promoting.”
The consensus among many students is that it is necessary to do a postgraduate after doing an Arts or Humanities undergraduate course. One student said, “Students are not qualified at anything after they finish an arts degree and it is essential that they further their studies as they have no other alternative”.
Many survey participants believe the cuts will result in students being more cautious when choosing their undergraduate degree; “I believe that with the proposed budget cuts people will be more careful when selecting their undergraduate discipline as some courses are almost unusable without a masters. This is particularly evident in the humanities subjects”.
EPL final year student, Keith Hoare told us; “There needs to be a radical overhaul of the nature of undergraduate degrees which should see more demanding and career focused courses offered as opposed to general open-ended degrees. Such undergraduate degrees specifically arts courses simply have to be changed to provide value-for money and real career possibilities as opposed to leaving students uncertain as to their future.”
In response to these comments, Dr Lisa Looney, Head of Graduate Studies at DCU told The College View that students in second level are sometimes advised to do a course that is considered to be general (when they are unsure of what they want to do) and there is a need to offer such undergraduate degrees.
She said three year degrees tend to be more general than four year degrees and because “employers look for specialised performance in niche areas”, students from certain disciplines will need to do a postgraduate to specialise.
Despite the negativity surrounding cuts to postgraduate grants, some students have looked on the cuts positively; “I believe that these cuts will perhaps place more value on education as a whole and people will be less inclined to take it for granted”.
DCU Young Fine Gael announced last week that they fully support the abolition of postgrad supports.
Chairman of DCU Labour Youth said, ‘‘We would fully support the SU if they began lobbying the government on this issue.’’ He said that it ‘seems a bit ridiculous to support’ the scrapping of postgrad grants.
A third of final year students surveyed are planning to do a postgraduate degree. This figure is in line with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) figures from their annual survey of graduates, ‘First Destinations’, which in recent years has revealed a third of graduates go on to do a postgraduate degree.
The survey was conducted online with final year students in 28 courses from all schools and faculties in DCU and 178 students took part in the survey.