Is a university degree worth “kind of nothing anymore”?
Last year, the OECD ranked Ireland third in the EU for participation in third-level education and nearly two-thirds, 64%, of Irish people aged 18-24 are in education.
Many see these figures as a positive indicator of social progress but journalist Mary Kenny feels it means has devalued what used to be a “huge privilege” when she was young.
“Only people who were very brainy, very academic or people who were quite affluent [went to college],” she told Newstalk Breakfast.
“Trinity College was a terribly posh place with very rich people which you pass by in Dublin.
“They were the only people who seemed to go to university - whereas now it’s everybody.”
Ms Kenny began work at 16 and feels sad that some employers overlook job applicants who might be talented but do not have certain academic qualifications.
“I suppose, what happens is people get more and more degrees so that a BA is kind of nothing anymore because you go on to get a Masters and a PhD perhaps to really compete,” she said.
“So, that does become a bit of a circular argument.”
'I want my grandchildren to go to university'
Despite this, she still feels a university education is a valuable thing to have but that people who do not go should not be considered inferior.
“I’m a grandparent and, of course, I want my grandchildren to go to university - but only if that’s what is their vocation,” she said.
“If one of them turns out to be burning to do something else, by all means skip university if that is your vocation.
“Very often, people who go into business, for example, want to get going early in life - somebody like Richard Branson.”
The Government is keen to widen access to higher education further and in June Minister Simon Harris announced a €9 million fund to help people from disadvantaged socio-economic groups apply.
Main image: Students at Trinity College, Dublin. Image: Mark Henderson / Alamy