An item this week in the Belfast Telegraph reported that, as the recession affects employment and job prospects, more people are opting for university degree programmes, and in particular postgraduate (and post-experience) degrees. In this particular case, students were reported to be causing a surge in demand for the programmes of the Business School of the University of Ulster; I expect that the experience is similar across business schools in the other universities in Ireland.
In fact, though we have not yet been able to quantify this, the recession has significantly affected student behaviour. The signs are that we’ll find a much lower drop-out rate amongst all students, and greater attendance. Nobody would want to suggest that the recession is a good thing, but its impact on student preferences and behaviour may actually be beneficial.
But it is also important to note that this is a time for universities and other higher education institutions to provide access to education and training for those who have lost jobs or whose jobs may be at risk. The announcement by the Minister for Education earlier this week of additional funded places in higher education for the unemployed (well, part-funded) should prompt all universities to focus on the need to re-activate the labour market by providing higher levels of education to those who may benefit from them.
Perhaps what we all need to do at this time is to re-discover a sense of community and to do what we can to show solidarity. DCU intends to play a major role in that process.