Higher Education and Even Higher Rents


There is a serious concern about the long term effects that higher rents in urban areas could have on third level choice in Ireland. This is not a short term concern, and the impacts countrywide could change the way Ireland develops forever.

Trending in the news over the past few days has been the unwelcome reports of the rapidly increasing rent prices countrywide. The release of this data in the form of the annual Daft report on rental prices seemingly coincided with the release of CAO first place offers. When the joy of the first-round offers has subsided, the difficult decisions will come to light. Not for the first time, genuine worry will encapsulate the mood as young men and women eager to embark on the rest of their lives need to make significant financial decisions. It is fair to say that these decisions have been made for decades, but it is equally fair to say that the past number of years have seen rent increases which may well change the way school leavers make important decisions about their higher education.

Much of what this article will entail will be speculative, although since I started writing it I’ve seen more related examples. I think that there is a distinct possibility that much of what will follow here may happen, as it may already be the case, and it is hard to predict to what extent it is already occurring. I fear a little that this article will also add another straw towards breaking the camel’s back as Ireland grows tired of the problems in our housing sector. Someone might say ‘not another problem’, and see university students as less of a priority. It is my feeling though that the issues here could accentuate an already overstretched system and put greater pressures in areas where previously it has not proven to be an issue.

The increasing rent prices, regardless of who is to blame for them, will impact on where people decide to take their third level study, if it hasn’t already happened. The scale with which this will happen is probably something we can’t measure, and while large numbers of students who live in the likes of Dublin or Cork may have less to be concerned about, students from rural areas or outside of major towns and cities who work hard for excellent exam results may be forced to choose courses based on proximity above all other factors.

Going to third level for the first time is a big step, not just for the student but also for the family, who experience their son or daughter with a very different lifestyle and with more independence. Parents recognise this and do their best to support their children on this important journey. If we start looking at situations where a family is left looking at trying to afford urban rent prices, especially those in Dublin, tough family decisions will be made. Families and individuals and will not only be looking at the quality of the course they choose, but the overall economic value of higher education.

Higher education institutes in Ireland struggle as it is to justify the value their courses have to individuals, and you could suggest that it isn’t really their fault that rents are as high as they are. But I don’t really think that matters, because when me make a decision like this, we take everything into consideration and evaluate the finished project. If you think of it a bit like a Ryanair flight that you buy to London Stansted or Paris Beauvais for €10, but when you arrive you discover all the add-ons of time and travel into the city, the value of the deal is somewhat reduced. I use this analogy merely to simplify my point. I wish choosing a college course or career was as easy as buying cheap flights online, but for the most part it is a more complex task.

I take a particular view of education and higher education in particular, and that is the education is there for helping you to grow and improve as an individual, and this can be achieved through learning. I don’t subscribe to the idea that education is primarily for employment, although it is significant, and I think when people choose a higher education course many also take the importance of these broader social and experiential benefits into account. When the cost of study increases, and especially for those who make a proportionally large financial investment for accommodation and living, the way they choose their courses will change. We have increased our propensity for considering the job trends when choosing our courses, especially since the recession, but with recovery we have become more selective in our choices, and with the advice that we give. Employability takes a precedent, and if you are to leave university with a significant debt following four years of renting in Dublin, for example, the importance of promptly entering employment will loom over new graduates.

You’ll have to forgive me for my constant references to Dublin in this article, but it is the centre of Irish higher education. Dublin has over 100,000 full and part-time students in higher education. There are three universities, three institutes of technology, as well as numerous high-quality private colleges with fine reputations. Not only this, it is home to some very specialised courses, such as veterinary, and some of its bigger universities are certainly attractive to ambitious students. I think that if you look around the country at the other universities you can say the same things, but my knowledge stems from Dublin. You could also say that Ireland is a small country and we believe if you work hard your results will matter more than where you got them, and I couldn’t agree more. However, we also spent much of our time reinforcing the idea that if you’re good enough you can go wherever you want to study in Ireland, because if you have the points then the world is your oyster. But times are changing, yet we can only predict how quickly and dynamically they flux.

As I mentioned, people will begin to choose courses based on proximity over the courses suitability or the individual’s desire or ambition. I am aware that this happens already, indeed when I filled out my own CAO I didn’t pick anywhere I couldn’t get a bus too every morning. Growing up in the Dublin Bus’s 70 terminus of Dunboyne being a blessing in this instance.  The problem with this situation is that it’s all well and good for people within commuting distance of Dublin, but those in other parts of the country are significantly less resourced in higher education options. Studying in Dublin or Cork or Galway will increasingly be seen as a luxury or status symbol, and there is something intrinsically wrong with this.

The situation becomes somewhat more austere as places in regional education centres become taken up by students who traditionally may have looked at going to university. This does have the benefit of increasing the quality of the classroom and student groups, but at the expense of students who previously may have found opportunities in higher education through local Institutes of Technology who will now find the competition for places to have increased significantly.  I think that perhaps we’ve already seen this process begin with the demand for a university to service Ireland’s south east. Educational snobs like to laugh at ITs as centres of basket weaving studies or advanced hairdressing (side rant – who gives a shite what another person wants to do with their life? Just support or be happy for them ye big Business and Law graduate), but their importance to the wider educational environoment of this country is vital. While they may indeed have nonsensical courses, their role in providing gateways to the technical workforce for many is vital.

Without something being done about this in good time, the situation will worsen. I think that we are already witnessing this situation in flux, although it will be hard to recognise the extent to which this is happening. The larger universities will always be able to fill places in in demand subjects, such as engineering or those geared towards services according to the recent news reports. Free spaces can be filled by international recruitment strategies, which benefits the universities in global ranking places and their bank accounts.

As a parent with young kids, the solution for me is quite simple, and this is to move closer to the urban centres with greater diversity of educational opportunities. Especially now, young professionals are more flexible as their backgrounds in IT or engineering allow for increased transiency. This kind of migration shouldn’t really perturb many of us who have already been a part of it, but it is the kind of migration which doesn’t pull at the heartstrings as much as the emigration which tore at us not many years ago. This in-country migration is no less disruptive, especially to rural communities. It is at this point where we see ourselves coming full circle once again to the issue of housing in our major urban areas. Young families will leave their homes and move to the cities because this is the best option for their families growth, even with the costs involved of paying exorbitant house prices or tackling overly competitive school enrollments. When you start to see less and less children on the streets of our town and villages as we journey further from the cities, are we not to blame because we never raised our hand and said that something is not right here.  This problem will extenuate itself increasingly in the coming years, if not decades to come, unless we some how try to curb it.

The housing crisis is not just about the cost of  accommodation, it is a wider social crisis that cannot be solved by a quick fix. It is clear to any person who tries to rent property or who opens a newspaper how much this issue is shellacking the country. I see it as an opportunity to reassess our understanding of what this accommodation crisis is causing. It goes beyond the problems which families are facing each day who are forced into emergency accommodation, or the prices which young people may be faced with paying for apartments in the cities. It is not my place to argue that any situation is more important that another, as what I see here is an extension of the increased housing neglect which is impacting countrywide. The right to education is one which we do not even debate in this country, and is one that has long hoped to be based on foundations of exceptional standards and equality. Are we in danger of reversing this?

In September, thousands of young people will wander off into this world in the hopes that they can be provided for. In the hope that everything will be ok. It’s a sobering thought that some may be forced to grow up quicker than others due to preventable situations. If we take a moment to consider what this means to be people, if we have stood in those same shoes ourselves as so many of us have, perhaps we can see more of the reality that Ireland’s 21st century crises continues to lay upon us.

 

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Trying to Appreciate Time and Effort


I frequently look back on everything I’ve written in this blog and think that it has all been a complete waste of time. I can’t count the amount of words I’ve written, I’m sure there are several books worth, but what is it worth when all it does is sit there waiting to come up in a Google search? This isn’t the first time I’ve had this notion, and for the most part I’ve held on to the blog itself mostly because of nostalgia. Deleting from the record over four years of work just doesn’t seem right to me, but then I wonder again.

What concerns me is what the blog has done to me. Granted I haven’t been writing much here, or indeed anywhere of late, but it has stifled my written output elsewhere. It has always been a distraction, something which I have written on and felt that my need to write something has been quenched. So many times I’ve felt guilty for writing on my blog when I could have sat down and wrote something else, something more challenging, something I would perplex over and frustrate myself trying to find someone to publish it. But this blog’s greatest publishing quandary is coming up with more intuitive tags to lure new readers.

I can’t say I’m not proud of my blog here, but there is a bitter cynical streak in my veins which asks that regardless of what you have written, who is reading it? I’m not suggesting that I want some post to go viral, or that I want to be some class of a power blogger, in the Korean sense. I don’t really think that my opinions are any more valid that anyone else who may have a blog, or indeed anyone who may actually be able to think and act for themselves. I think I just always hoped for more to come of it.

This blog grew from itself. It started slow. It started confused. It had a longwinded and unread infancy, but at some stage around its second birthday I suppose it started to get a little popular. The number of readers managed to regularly peak around fifty a day, and for me this was a success. I felt like it was my duty to write for these people, whoever they were. I don’t know what I was writing about, you can check my archive for that, but I do recall that I was having fun.

It was perhaps that writing that was the most exciting aspect. I learned at that time how to really use the keyboard to my advantage, and I think I actually believed in myself as someone who had the skill to craft a beautiful sentence. As my grandfather might say, it takes a lot of them to fill a pint. Yet, there was something about what I was doing. The more I tried to change and grow as a blogger the better reactions I earned.

One time when I was considering quitting the blog writing thing I opened up a 10 Magazine where I had an article written that month, and in it Ifound that my blog was featured as Blog of the Month. It wasn’t really a major accolade by any stretch of the imagination, but it felt good to get a little recognition from a fellow blogger and blog reader.

I think that every time I half considered quitting blog writing some small thing like this happened and I got a little more impetus to continue writing. I can recall regularly panic writing a blog conclusion with five minutes before a class started, and spending the down time in that class adding the tags and uploading photographs in a frenzy as if the very action of writing could not wait until I got home, or at least back to my office. When the post went out I would then sit back and refresh my blog stats waiting for a spike in views. This kind of recognition was kind of a drug.

Since I’ve been back in Ireland I think my posts just haven’t garnered the half-frenzy of attention I thought they got in Korea. I probably haven’t tried hard enough, but that would imply that I’ve tried to make me blog a success in Ireland. For some reason the blog just doesn’t seem to have the same function here. It is still necessary, but I think it has become more of a personal venting space than anything, and who wants to read that? Maybe I could look for something to talk about more, but I struggle to find that new guile required.

I still believe that without my blog I don’t think I could have been as confident a writer as I am now.

Well, that is a little unfair. I could easily have become as confident if not a more confident writer without this function, but my blog successes have encouraged me to continue trying and to persevere and to understand that you cannot expect success to be immediate. I need to remember this lesson more than ever these days.

But I also strongly believe that it has been a mighty distraction which has blinkered me a lot about my understanding of how writing and the world works. I believe that for some reason it has scuppered many opportunities, but if you asked me what opportunities these are I could not list them.

Now that I say all this I think that the problem is not with my blog and blogging itself, it is my own maturity as a writer and an individual looking for a sense of self when I am feeling quite lost at sea. Perhaps, as I look for a conclusion and an understanding here, I could say that maybe the blog has matured me to expect more from myself and to step beyond my comfort zone and accept new challenges. This is perhaps what I should say, and stop looking for ways to blame my blog for doing nothing but help me know myself a little more.

 

*Don’t worry, this is not the end of my blog, just thinking out loud….AGAIN*

Advice I’d Give to Me


The likes of everyone is an expert at handing out wonderful advice they don’t abide by themselves. I’d be in that category. I am even adept at advising myself on things I should and shouldn’t do, and to my detriment I continue to fail to acknowledge and follow such sterling quality advice.

Another human ailment I suffer from is an over abudance of regrets on times and actions long gone by. I’m particularly prone to it now, as I have lamented somewhat in the past few posts. Even when we are at our best it’s mistakes and poor judgement from some action fifteen years before that we look to when we’re looking for something to find fault with ourselves.

So what’s better than both of these on their own? Well it’s the two combined of course.

On my twitter feed the other day and image emerged from Vanity Fair.

And it got me thinking. Because, first and foremost, I’m not that old. Secondly, I don’t really believe that advice would have changed much of how I acted. I don’t think I ever went about looking for advice, at least not from people who would have been in a good position to offer it. I think that I must have been always bullheaded in my own determination to become what I wanted to be. I can’t say whether any of my so-called determination ever came to fruition, because as independent as I like to think of myself, I’m also pretty feckless and absent minded.

And it got me thinking. Because there is plenty of good advice been shared by people in a good position to offer good advice. The fantastic Brain Pickings is an endless source of this advice, and if you’ve never visited that website you really should. You can read all the advice the written word has to offer, but how much do you take to heart? Is a lot of it not just idea juice that will inspire you somehow to focus in a particular way? Our conscious actions are influenced by our past experiences or by the experiences of people we know. What I mean is that if you want to make the most of advice it’s imperative that you seek from someone who you love or respect, or indeed both if you’re lucky enough to have a person that fits both of these categories.

I know that when I write something I’m particularly proud of there first opinion I seek is Herself’s. I can’t say that it’s because she’s an expert on anything that I write, but because it’s her view on life I look to first. I see her as a very balanced and logical thinker and a person with a particularly insightful view on the rest of the world. I look for the opinions of others too, of course, for different reasons and when seeking different results.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to his daughter Frances in a 1933 letter is something worth reading now. The infamous writer, fond of a drink, a psychologically troubled spouse, and for penning some of the finest novels of the twentieth century was, in several respects, aptly positioned to offer advice to his daughter. There’s the love angle covered, and because of the work he produced the respect angle is arguably covered too. Enough of my waffle. Here’s the letter:

DEAR PIE:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy– but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds…

I think of you, and always pleasantly, but I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?…

Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:

Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion

Don’t worry about dolls

Don’t worry about the past

Don’t worry about the future

Don’t worry about growing up

Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault

Don’t worry about mosquitoes

Don’t worry about flies

Don’t worry about insects in general

Don’t worry about parents

Don’t worry about boys

Don’t worry about disappointments

Don’t worry about pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Courtesy of openculture.com (another website worth checking regularly)

*

I like to think that I am not someone who dwells seriously on regrets. I take some into account, like when I was in UCD I should have volunteered for one of the University newspapers, and perhaps I should not have chickened out of taking English as a degree subject – all that confounded olde English… Sometimes I regret not trying harder, or for not standing up and asking for something. Nowadays I have a silly regret that I didn’t prepare myself more for being more employable (at least on paper). And other crap which will struggle to bear much significance in the future.

When I think about it seriously, there is nothing here that I actually regret. If I could stop regretting one thing it would be to stop regretting things. But If I could go back in time and give myself some advice I would. If I could offer advice I would probably say things like don’t worry, everything works out in the end, and those things you wanted to do don’t matter in the long run, and that yes, life is not fair, and live it up. Similar to the majority of respondents, wherever they came from, on that Vanity Fair tweet, I am a normal, worried person.

But. But. But this got me thinking. Because the way we give advice depends as much on how we receive it, as I discussed above, as it does to how we share it. If we throw advice about carelessly it has no value. If we share it sparingly then each piece of advice is worth something more than simple words that pass from mouth to ear.

I will offer my advice to a younger me, advice that I still need to follow and advice I think I will need to adhere to until I die. It’s pretty simple advice but it’s something that I think would save me as it could have saved me in the past had I known the necessity for it.

I could say question everything.

I could say love yourself.

I could say don’t let negativity spoil you.

I could say there is beauty in everything.

I could say that everything takes time to grow.

But what I will say is this. Always, always, look for advice. Seek it out. Listen to it. Judge it. Question it. Consume it. Love it. Manipulate it and use it as your own. Without it you will be on your own. With it you will have someone else’s world and someone else’s to make the most of. Bring all this advice together and ball it up and hold it tight to you because one day it will be useful even if it seems like a waste of time right now. Advice from loved ones, family, friends, peers, everyone has something to share. The more advice you get, the better suited you are to make the right decisions in life and less alone you will feel when these decisions are part of your future.

I just hope that it’s good advice.

*

The whole way through writing this post all I could think of was this song.

 

Dublin, It’s a Jungle


Dublin is a jungle, or it is something akin in its animalism. A hive. No not a hive, that implies benevolence towards fellow citizenry, and cooperation, and selflessness, order, prosperity, among other things. No, I think I was right, this city is certainly some class of a food chain populated by a variety of wild, flesh devouring species. The only thing is if you put a deer or lion on College Green at about 8.25 on a Tuesday morning, a WTF face would be produced and the poor misfortunate beast would probably lie down and curl up in a fit of uncontrollable tears. But you’ll allow me in this instance to describe lovely Dublin’s streets as a jungle, despite the whole cliché thing.

Now the buildings are all lovely, and with the exception of the LUAS works decorating the odd street, the roads are quite civilised looking also. They have black shiny tar-macadam which remains in place after the rain, and lines to distinguish the limits of the side of the road one must be traveling on. There are fancy traffic lights too, which for the most part are in working order.

The whole food chain thing comes from the traffic. If you look at it we have the big herbivores which traipse around minding their own business doing their best to finish the day so that they can go home and have their tea. They don’t usually pick a fight or cause much bother except when someone decides to do so with them, and I suppose with their size they are always going to be an easy target, but they can hold their own. No one enjoys really being too close to them but much like any ecosystem if you didn’t have them we’d be plagued with hitch hikers. I mean other vermin.

Buses are what I’m talking about, of course, and they lie somewhere important in the food chain of the commute. Like elephants, but without the grace and wonder of the mighty tusked beasts native to Africa and India, buses lurch around corners and busy themselves through traffic without too many concerns in the world it would seem. They harbour parasites, namely pedestrians, a necessary evil but one we are familiar with. Begrudge the bus for such ignominy if you wish, but it’s not as if the pedestrians really want to be there. Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a happy face on a bus. Except for weirdos, and stoners – the UCD routes are a good spot for these.

Next you have cars. This can be divided into three types, the out of towner, the regularly in towner, and taxis. Taxi’s are the Allosaurus of the Dublin urban scene. A large and formidable predator capable of taking on most competitors as prey. It’s no T Rex but you’d think twice about messing with him.

The regular in towner type are in many respects a nicer version of the Allosaurus. Imagine an Allosaurus that doesn’t need to fend for itself in the wild, one who has a salary, supplies its sustenance from the local Tesco, takes the weekend off, and in the evening instead of hunting for weaklings to prey upon it sits in and watches detective drama reruns on Alibi. Well able to scrap if it wants to, but all in all a nice enough top-tier predator.

The out of towner is still an Allosaurus but this kind of Allosaurus is a bit like that deer or lion which we met on College Green earlier. A fearsome beast in its own environment of narrow Kilkenny by-roads, but betwixt the labyrinthine one way conundrum of Dublin’s south inner city this Allosaurus has had his private parts removed and a large memory reducing sedative placed in its morning cupán tae. As such, to everybody else in this little jungle of ours, there are few more annoying alpha predators.

There are probably other beasts which flurry about from time to time. There is the rare articulated lorry which is like a bus but more aggressive and stubborn but is chained by shackles of regulation and distaste and distrust by the constabulary. Or indeed the mighty serpentine LUAS, cut in half by some class of an urban planner much reduced in the gift or foresight. At allt times these beastly automobiles are restrained by the barriers and regulations of the tar-macadam and the watchful eye of the ever hovering birds of prey, the Garda Síochana.

What I want to talk about next is a unique case relevant to our days, and one which has seen a surge in recent years, be it because of nicer weather, or tax breaks, or because Irish people are just cheap and don’t want to pay for the bus or their car. This particular beast of the street is one which proudly rises above other patrons of the jungle’s streets. Not only is this particular species one which holds the esteem of a low-carbon footprint, it is also frustratingly one which allows its facilitator to boast that they are indeed exercising whilst in their commute. Regardless of the weather, this hi-vis attired biped will forever stand aloof of its fellow city bound workers as one which has not spent at least half of the journey time stopped in neutral, or worse so have had to sit (or stand) in the shared vitriolic breath of one hundred others whilst carefully massaging in mesmerism the homely glow of their smartphone’s screen. Such a species sees no rules such as those encumbered on those other registered wheels of the city, and no need for safety, as all will stop before them as they change lanes and whisp between gridlocked bumpers. Not only this, but all who do not share their unique outlook on commuting should kneel before such nimble gazelles of the city.

This brings me finally to the bottom feeders. The scrubbers. The forgotten. The grubs which populate the undergrowth and for which the remainder of the city is left for them to scurry through in the hope a more elite beast will not swallow them up. Yes, I’m talking about the noble pedestrian. He or she who is eternally caught in the rain. Yes, it’s true we have all done it, but let’s be honest; no pedestrian ever wished for this. Are we not all just walking because our employer will not pay for us to park, and are we not walking because there are already too many more fortunate than us who have decided to say ‘enough is enough, I can take no more of the shared breath of the bus, I shall sit in the warmth of my own car and listen to music I like out loud and fart as loud if not more in comforting privacy’. But the pedestrians are the rebels, as it is they who say no to the conformity of yellow lines and red lights, pay no heed to one way signs and raise two fingers to the frustrating grimace of an Allosaurus who they have walked out in front of in a panic to buy coffee and walk the remaining ten minutes to the office in an attempt to pretend to cyclists that they also choose to exercise, and that indeed footing it is a lifestyle choice.

Yes, this is the city we dwell within. We lunch on each others throats each morning and evening in a fury of competition. We nibble on the scraps of gaps in the traffic and hope that the light won’t change to quickly or that the person in the car will realise that you should have your car in gear when you see the lights change so that you are ready to move when the car in front has and you’re not delaying the person in a frenzied rush directly behind you, not the contrary as is the case more often than not. Yes, I’m talking about you.

This jungle will spit you out one of these days. It won’t even chew you, the taste will be so bad. But don’t worry the jungle won’t miss you, there’ll be another bottom feeder ready to jump in and take your place, salivating at the opportunity of a glorious October morning along the quays…

Writting Weapon


I have been writing a lot less lately as I explained. For whatever reasons, not only here on this blog, but outright I’ve written remarkably little in the past four months. Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly trying to dig myself out of this period of inactivity. It kind of clicked whilst going over my recent whinge that using my blog is the ideal way to help me.

image

There’s still the constant concern that it will be another drain on my attention while I should be focusing elsewhere, but I think I need this now. I need to refocus and I need to think differently than I have been thinking. There’s needs to be more than the be all and end all. I need to think about more than just me.

I scribbled a few things down which I liked, and I figured let me put them here and see what the internet thinks.

*

Seanie slapped me across the puss

And said would you come away from

Yourself you goon you’re all there

I can feel you tingling on my fingertips

from the belt I just dealt you pull your

head away from that noose and do me

a favour and just write something even

if it’s just you whining about not writing

with little or no excuse other than

you’re havent been enclined to.

*

This is a city of hi-vis. Hi-vis and earthy tones. A thousand shades of stone. Words in lights. Red-crossed zones. Tricolours illuminated. Fleshed. Bones. Buses home.

Dublin entering that perpetually about to start to rain stage of year.

Bicycles will be removed. Drops on the stainless steel. Mottled shape shoulders and a bus facade. Cold to touch but who would know?

Troubadour opens his door. Yer all wet ye are says he, not up O’Connnell Street, down the quays. A 46A or 38. A siren sings his door closed.

*

That’s it. I thought I had more. Must be writing too many job application letters* or something.

More to come me hopes.