Limerick High-Tech Firm Launches Scholarship Programme

scholarshipA Limerick hi-tech engineering company has developed a novel way of encouraging young people to consider Engineering and Science careers by offering a scholarship and internship to third level undergraduate students.

Emutex Ltd., an embedded software solutions firm based in Raheen, says the aim of its ‘Software Innovator of the Year Scholarship’ is to encourage young people to consider a career in computing in light of the significant shortfall in Engineering and Science graduates in Ireland.

Under the programme, students are being invited to apply their expertise in software and innovation to create an application using the popular Raspberry Pi embedded device. The winning idea will be selected from a shortlist of 10 entries, which will be showcased on

“During the past year, we have had to look overseas to fill 7 out of 10 job vacancies due to a shortage of suitably qualified professionals in Ireland. The skill level required is just not available here at present,” explained Mr. John Twomey, managing director, Emutex.

He added: “There is a clear need in this country to encourage young people to pursue Engineering and Science in secondary and third level education to enable them for successful careers in electronic and computer software engineering. For this reason, we have launched the first annual Scholarship programme aimed at Third Level undergraduate students in software/computing disciplines. We will cover the winning undergraduate studentís Third Level fees for one year, as well as offer them an internship within the company.”

Founded in 2007, Emutex is a software engineering company that specialises in the design and development of complex embedded comms software solutions. The companyís software can be found in many types of devices including phone systems, advanced network routers, security firewalls, thin-client displays, alarm systems and metering devices.

Mr. Twomey said he hopes the launch of the Scholarship programme will encourage other companies to offer similar programs.

“At a time of high unemployment in Ireland, it comes as a surprise to many that software companies throughout the country are forced to look abroad for people to fill job vacancies. This is simply a result of the low numbers of Secondary School students applying for college places in computing disciplines. There seems to be a genuine disinterest among young people to pursue a career in computing. Technology is everywhere in todays world but learning about how these technologies work in a hands-on way is what will get young people excited about computing.”

The Emutex Software Innovator of the Year Scholarship scheme invites students to apply their expertise in software and innovation to create an application using the popular Raspberry Pi embedded device. This miniature computer used by hobbyists around the world is ideal for educational purposes and can be used to create anything from a robot to a home automation system (remote central heating and lighting).

All applicants will first submit their ideas on the Emutex website at From this, 10 finalists will be chosen. They will be given the device and any equipment they require to build a working prototype of their idea. All of these ideas will be showcased on the Emutex website and explained in simple terms so that they can be easily understood by all ages. Finally, the student with the best project will win the Emutex Software Innovator Of The Year Scholarship for 2013.

Visit for further information.

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Become a fitness instructor in 4 months

motions-fitnessIf you would like to gain a university accredited, professional qualification as a fitness instructor/trainer then get along to the open meeting in the Red Cow Hotel on Tuesday 15 January at 7.30pm.

The meeting is being held by Motions Health & Fitness Training who run the Certificate in Exercise & Health Fitness course in Dublin. The next course is starting in UCD on 4 February and this meeting will give information about the qualification, the course, further education and job prospects.

View Motions Fitness courses and information on


To find out more information go to or email if you wish to attend the meeting.

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Momentum Programme

momentum-programmeAn announcement that 6500 education and training places are being funded for people who are long term unemployed and young adults under 25 years is welcome news. A government initiative, the Momentum Programme is hoping to prevent a “lost generation” of young people who have never worked and provide essential skills for people who are long term unemployed. The courses will be provided by a mix of public and private institutions and colleges with an emphasis on skills that are deemed to be needed in the world of work.

Quite clearly, creating opportunity that leads to work especially for the long term unemployed is imperative for the government who are in the middle of re-building a very broken economy. As part of getting the country back on its feet again, it is crucial that gaps are filled and a skilled workforce is available to meet challenges in the future. Opportunities in various sectors have been identified and the right training and skills will give potential employees access to these sectors with a view to establishing a career.

This initiative will utilise 36 training and education providers in the public and private domain. A huge range of programmes will be on offer spread across Ireland. The training courses will focus on expanding employment areas of healthcare, green economy, sales and marketing, food processing, ICT and digital media. Different counties will offer different choices when it comes to the training on offer. This may prove restrictive for under 25s and long term unemployed people if they are not able to travel far from their present location. For instance, the only training option available to the long-term unemployed in some counties is healthcare.

The under 25s however have a smorgasbord of options across all sectors. All courses will be tailored to the specific requirements of the unemployed with an emphasis on pathways back to work that enhance necessary soft skills such as communication. Attention will be given to marketing the jobseeker in today’s market place and meaningful work placements should assist with building confidence, which is often lacking in long term unemployed people.

The training provides what has been described as “significant work placement” as part of the course which will be helpful to young people who have not worked before. Momentum will only provide training in sectors where a need for skilled people has been identified. Funding for any other type of course will not be offered by this particular scheme.


Funding of €20 million has been made available from the Department of Education and Skill, and FAS will administer the programme. For the unemployed person who is signing on to the live register courses are free and operate on a full time and part time basis. The courses are aligned with the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) levels 3 to 6 or to an industry-recognised certification. The courses will run from 11 to 45 weeks duration.

Momentum Scheme Details

The scheme was officially launched on 18th December and the announcement comes not long after Budget 2013 announcements that staff cuts would be necessary across the further education sector. Momentum has a structure of themes within which projects offer the training required by the clusters of occupations the theme covers. There are four themes within the scheme. The themes have been chosen as evidence shows that skills these themes are associated with have relatively good outcomes when it comes to employment.

The first three themes aim to provide certification within levels 5 to 6 on NFQ. The fourth theme is exclusively for unemployed young people under the age of 25 years with the aim of moving this type of candidate into the employment market while furnishing them with foundation skills from where they can progress. Level 3 to 6 alignment or on NFQ are available in this theme. Certification in the fourth theme will encompass levels 3 to 6 or equivalent alignment to the NFQ.

Theme 1 Occupations

  • Information Communications Technology
  • Digital Media
  • Gaming
  • Telecommunications.
  • Theme 2 Occupations

  • Transportation
  • Distribution and Logistics
  • Sales and Marketing.
  • Theme 3 Occupations

  • Health Care and Social Services
  • Manufacturing Process Technicians
  • Natural Resources Energy Conservation
  • Food and Beverage Services and Food Processing.

Courses will commence in January and February 2013 across the country and it will be interesting to see if the project delivers the significant opportunities being touted by the government. Unemployment is 14.8% and 429,567 people are signing on to the live register, so the landscape remains challenging despite all of the training initiatives on offer.

Author: Denise Colebrooke

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PLC Sector Hit Hard by Budget 2013

plc-education-cutsPost Leaving Certificate courses are increasingly important for obtaining employment in these uncertain times. They are vital for school leavers and adult learners who need to up skill or add value to their existing portfolio of skills that may allow them to enter the workforce. Given this need, Budget 2013 has unfortunately delivered a body blow to learners and colleges alike by changing the current teacher pupil ratio from 17:1 to 19:1.

Cuts across the Sector

Despite a succession of education ministers talking about the need to be rid of inequality in education, Budget 2013 was a bad news day for anyone in the further education sector. The change in pupil teacher ratio will mean the loss of up to 200 full time jobs and 500 non-permanent posts being cut or reduced in hours.

A host of dedicated establishments including colleges, post primary schools and other education centres provide post Leaving Certificate courses and further education. For recovery of the economy, a well-educated workforce with in-demand skills is a key component and it seems counter productive to apply these cuts at a time when the sector is needed most.

Value of PLCs and Further Education

The further education sector offers many alternatives to those who are disadvantaged and unemployed or who need a second opportunity to become qualified. Already stretched to the limits, many colleges take on students without funding, so these budget cuts will strain an already over-stressed system

It is nonsensical for qualified teachers to be consigned to the dole queue when they are playing an important role in economic recovery by educating the current and future work force of Ireland. Not only will social welfare costs be applicable to the newly unemployed teachers, but also to the pupils who will find the doors closed when they are denied a place on a course due to lack of teaching resources.

Some required skills for today’s marketplace are specialised and without any resources to pass on this knowledge business critical skills cannot be delivered to the potential work force. A nation with an unemployment rate of some 15% and a youth unemployment rate of 25% (under 25 years) needs innovative educators to retrain and educate this untapped source of economic recovery.

Future Workforce in Jeopardy

Some of the people who will suffer from the budget cuts might be future entrepreneurs, engineers, IT people, or marketers, who may never realise their potential or have to wait on the dole queue for a chance at retraining. These people may be without prior qualifications and formal skills and many may have left formal education for the lure of the Celtic Tiger. They are now back from the easy money years realising they need to obtain relevant qualifications to ring fence their future financial security and marketability. There are also those whose employment sector has collapsed and there are no opportunities available to them, and parents who stayed home to raise children all of who want to train or up skill

The increase in the pupil-teacher ratio means that many new courses that have context within our EU membership such as green energy will take the hit while cutting edge technology courses for instance, cloud computing will also suffer.

Training Allowances Reduced

The impact of the change to pupil teacher ratio is only one edge of the sword; budgetary cuts also hit the training allowances, which have been reduced. Participants in different schemes via Fás, VTOS, and Youthreach, who move from jobseekers’ payments, will not be eligible for an increase to the maximum €188 each week but will be capped at €160 per week for under 25’s. Capitation rates in colleges providing PLCs and further education is also reduced by 2%.

Effective from January 2013, the back to education allowance of €300 is discontinued for all participants new and existing. Back to education allowance will be discontinued for new and existing participants. These cuts may be enough to put the chance of education out of the reach of keen students who will not be able to bear the costs, given the increase in fuel costs and commuting.

Budget 2013 has set back the education sector just as more than at any other time it needs to deliver an educated workforce. For those who are unemployed, frustrated and striving to make change in their lives, these cuts have slashed the odds on available courses, and affordability of attending college.

Continuing to squeeze essential services for every last cent leaves not only education but also the government in disarray. With emigration on an unprecedented scale particularly at graduate level, a throughput of newly skilled people is needed across all sectors as economic growth is achieved. Without this, there is likely to be a skills gap in the future, and people are denied the chance to make a valid contribution to the country. The government need to think strategically instead of implementing knee jerk solutions.

Denise Colebrooke

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Farm Education

farmer educationHistorically, becoming a farmer was simple. As soon as a child born on a farm began to walk, they would follow their parents around the farm and learn in a purely practical and hands on way as they grew up. These days however, post secondary education is becoming ever more important for farmers wishing to run their farms at a profit and sustain the business into the future.

Technology and the reality of competitive economies challenge people who run farms in a new way. Agriculture has become more knowledge intensive with rapid changes, new legislation, and EU directives making the management of a farm complex. As a result, different types of knowledge and skills are becoming essential for farming success.

Traditional Ways Outdated

A typical day for a farmer calls on many inherent and taught skills. They need to recognise when stock is sick, check prices, fix broken machinery, feed, plough, manage land, and do all of the paperwork while keeping an eye on their market place. As a general worldwide trend, farm work is expected to decline as more efficient farming practices mean more products can be produced from fewer farms. In Ireland, small family farms make up the majority of all farmland and there is danger that more of these farms will fail to thrive unless attention is paid to getting the most from the land and stock efficiently.

Farmers have an inborn understanding of the work that they perform in an environment that calls for a complexity of skills. However, farms are businesses and without the education to run a farm as a business entity, many farmers are struggling to exist. The modern farmer needs to keep detailed records on the health of their stock, crop rotation, land management, due income and outbound purchasing. A general understanding of electricity, mechanics, carpentry, engineering and natural ingenuity are essential for any farmer.

The Farm As a Business

Business management is an area where farmers need to have knowledge. Computer literacy is an essential skill required of farmers these days and they need to know how to apply technology, have awareness of environmental stewardship, understand global marketing, be able to develop a business plan, control finances, prepare budgets and maintain the every day running of the farm.

Farmer’s decisions are always challenging. Deciding on what crop to grow or what stock to invest in is a gamble. A mistake can mean a disaster a year down the line. It is becoming more difficult for farmers who have not gone beyond basic education to meet the challenges of modern farming.

Teagasc plays a role providing on-farm education supporting the agri-industry and sustaining rural life in Ireland. The importance of education off the farm is to be taken seriously in a dynamic food and agriculture sector. Farmers today should have education equivalent to other professional occupations.

It is considered that food and farming are pivotal to the Irish economy recovery leading to growth in the sector. Diversification is encouraged and many farms have changed to become producers of artisan cheeses and food products. Others have looked at their natural resources and started to offer farm holidays, equestrian activities, and farm restaurants.


Most farmers starting a farm business or already running one know it is not possible to ignore education. To keep their operations in business now requires some kind of formal training. For farmer’s children intending to return to the farm there are plenty of valuable third level degrees that will support their hands on training. For existing farmers there is plenty of support and funding available to take practical, useful courses to improve their prospects.

Farmers are one group of people where the working day can be 24 hours during busy times like lambing and hay making so it is essential that educational courses fit around the lifestyle. Fortunately, with an internet connection, farmers can take advantage of the many relevant distance-learning courses supplied by further education colleges throughout the country. This means they can study from home at a time that suits them and without leaving the farm.

Business, Food Science, Horticulture, Marketing, Environmental Studies, Basic Accounting, and Agricultural Science are just some of the many subjects for farmers to study to enhance their own skills and improve their bottom line. Combined with the excellent on-farm education Teagasc provides, there is every hope that the agriculture sector in Ireland will grow and prosper in the years ahead. Like all professions, experience gained through the years is critical, but the essential tools of the trade such as simple business management knowledge and computer skills as a minimum are vital to the future of the agricultural sector.

Denise Colebrooke

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Confucius Says Learn Chinese Languages to get the Edge

chinese coursesThe extraordinary rise of China as a world player is a twenty-first century drama of magnitude. The economic growth of China and its active part on the world stage is transforming Asia and re-aligning business development towards the East. While this may lead to fears over the security of the West, it seems there is no stopping this economic juggernaut.

What does this have to do with education? China’s extraordinary growth means that more western organisations are transferring manufacturing to China as labour costs are cheap and the burgeoning industrial cities offer top quality cheap office space, state of the art communications, internet access and a workforce that is reliable and disciplined. This eclectic mix of traditional culture, totalitarianism, and western style consumerism makes China a fascinating place to do business. The Chinese are also setting up trade missions and permanent showcases in Europe so that investors, buyers, and businesspeople can see what China has to offer without the long haul air travel.

The €175m first phase of what has been nicknamed “Athlone Chinatown” in Westmeath will house the International Trade and Commerce Centre, a European hub for Chinese traders and manufacturers to display their products to international buyers. Some 1500 jobs will be created by the first phase with at least two thirds of the jobs going to Irish and EU citizens with the remainder taken by Chinese specialists and management teams.

Clearly, Ireland’s ties with China will be strengthened by this investment and opportunities for work both in Ireland and in China will be on offer. For the entrepreneur or businessperson, learning a Chinese language and learning about the culture and etiquette will give them a competitive advantage.

Already Ireland is home to three Confucius Institutes whose goal is global teaching about China. A further purpose built institute is underway at UCD. The Belfield campus will be home to an architect designed four storey pagoda style building set in a Chinese garden with a giant statue of Confucius in bronze keeping a watchful eye.

While it is not unusual for countries to promote their culture and language (take the Alliance Francais and British Council for example), what is unusual is China’s insistence that the Chinese version is situated on university campuses. This condition has led to some dissension amongst universities worldwide with some US universities declining the offer of a Confucius Institute and some academics at UCD questioning the existence of a totalitarian government funded entity in the long term. Like many third level institutes, funding is short so the offer of a 5 million euro Chinese investment combined with a 2.5 million euro Irish government contribution is not easily refused.

Confucius – Philosophy, Teaching, and Principles

From 551 to 479 BC the statesman, philosopher, teacher, and great thinker Confucius lived. Dominating Chinese culture for centuries, his philosophies are a doctrine for Chinese life. In the late sixteenth century, his philosophy spread to Europe through various missionaries one of whom gave him the name Confucius. To the Chinese he is “Kong Zi” or “The Master”. Some essential parts of his teachings are:

  • Harmony, and respect for elders and worship of parents is essential.
  • Chinese children are legally bound to support their parents.
  • Parents pray, light candles and incense and leave notes at Confucius temples to help children pass exams. This wisdom is not uncommon with Irish parents either at exam times!

There are further Confucius Institutes at UCC Cork and the University of Ulster, neither of which have purpose built premises. Promotion of Chinese studies is important given China’s position in the world economy but there is nevertheless political sensitivity when it comes to China’s record on human rights and Tibet. Is there real academic freedom if as has been reported Chinese teachers are groomed to toe the party line?

Whether or not the Confucius Institute is agreeable to everyone, it is very clear that engagement with China is necessary in international business today. Consequently, anyone who wants to gain an advantage on a business, cultural or social level might try learning one of China’s languages. On a basic level, it displays an interest in the country and good manners, at a higher level; it is beneficial in conducting business transactions and being aware of business conversations without the use of an interpreter.

Many esteemed further education colleges offer the opportunity to learn what is rapidly becoming an essential business language. Mandarin and Cantonese are now on the curriculum of many northern European schools and at higher level, but Ireland has been slow to follow although it has been announced that Mandarin will be available at some stage in the Leaving certificate and Chinese studies will be available for Junior certificate from 2014. This year over 3,200 British students sat Chinese A levels and many other countries are replacing Spanish and French with Chinese languages, so Ireland needs to catch up.

Further education colleges offer classroom and distance learning courses in this essential language so for anyone wanting to have an edge in business in the twenty first century, consider enrolling on one of the many top class courses available.

Click here to find language courses on

Denise Colebrooke

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Education System Leaves Disabled Students Ill-Equipped

disabled students face problemsIt is interesting to note that despite Ireland being a country that embraces diversity and strives to be all-inclusive, research from the Association for Higher Education Access Disability clearly shows that disabled school leavers are less likely to enter higher education. In fact, they are four times less likely to continue with any type of training. This is borne out by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures, which highlight that disabled students are three times more likely to leave school before the age of fifteen years. Further statistics show disabled adults are twice as likely to suffer unemployment compared to nondisabled adults.

Traditional Education System

To understand why this situation exists in a land of equal opportunity we must look to the education system. The foremost barrier for disabled children who may also have learning difficulties is that the traditional Irish system was not designed to include these children. Through the years policies formulated to include, these boys and girls into mainstream education have not been followed through, as the current system has been unable to adapt. Instead, a series of bolt on compensatory supports try to breach the gap to address the proper needs of disabled students.

Many different support mechanisms have been provided by the Department of Education such as special needs classroom assistance and special resource teachers, which is of some help. However, the main teaching systems and methods of text based learning and classroom interaction remain the same.

This leads to a constant cycle of needs not being fulfilled. For example, deaf children will never be taught in Irish sign language because third level teacher training colleges do not accept deaf students because they do not fulfil the Irish language entry requirement.

Lack of Equipment and Awareness

The traditional education system does not have any mandatory modules in teacher training for disability awareness, leaving many teachers without the knowledge to manage disability in the classroom. Classroom equipment is lacking for those pupils who need to read textbooks using computers and school staff have no knowledge of the use of the software either. When something as simple as the lack of schoolbooks available electronically cannot be resolved, then teaching of disabled youngsters becomes ad hoc.

Even with this make do and mend system of support provision, with recent cutbacks and the levels of bureaucracy to be dealt with by over stressed parents, to even gain these supports is a trial. Often disabled students may end up with limited or no additional assistance due to local budgetary constraints.

Higher Education

Given the statistics and an education system unsuited to this group in society, it is no surprise that it is difficult for disabled adults to pursue higher education because of the limited access to courses. Many higher-level educational institutions do not have any support systems in place for adult learners, or the funds to supply them. Yet with the help of interpreters and readers, personal assistants and tutors with disabled awareness, these statistics could be overturned and improved in a very short timescale.

With so many children in the system losing out at a fundamental level, changes including greater use of multi media, IT and on screen learning are essential for children with learning difficulties and disabilities. This would at least go some way to furnishing a pathway to higher-level education.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Report

An OECD report for Ireland looks in close detail at the pathways to further education and employment for disabled people and one section highlights the importance of distance learning and open college courses as part of a larger process to strive for full inclusion and opportunity.

The goal of developing distance learning in Ireland is to allow any disabled person who has not had access to higher education to have a meaningful, flexible, learning opportunity. By its nature, this type of course is suited to a person with a disability who can work from the home environment with personal support. Many private colleges offer courses of this type. This method can be a viable means for at least some students who are disabled to achieve qualifications and move into the workforce.

The OECD report also addresses funding and money has been put aside for support systems for these students with a view to seeing some real results by 2016. There is no doubt that funding is limited and supports may be costly, but many colleges of all kinds are willing to discuss the needs of individual students from every sector of society to accommodate their needs and find a workable solution to studying.

There is an urgent need to review the proper inclusion of the disabled in mainstream education so they have the opportunity to learn necessary skills needed in the world in which they live. It is unacceptable for the system to fail these children, young adults, and adults and condemn them to a life of unemployment.

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Promoting Ireland’s Education in India

promoting Irelands education system in IndiaIreland is well known throughout history as a land of scholars and it is hoped that many more scholars from the Indian sub-continent will be attracted to her shores.

A delegation of more than 60 of Ireland’s leading academics from Irish higher education institutes has joined a trade mission to promote the brand “Education in Ireland”. This initiative is the brand umbrella for promoting the higher education sector of Ireland to overseas markets.

Managed by Enterprise Ireland, the objective is to promote Ireland as a global education and business hub. IDA Ireland, multi-national PayPal, and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) have joined Enterprise Ireland in this drive to increase the Irish share of some 200,000 Indian students who head overseas to study each year.

The mission to India ran from the 22nd to the 29th of November led by Ciarán Cannon TD the Minister of State for Training and Skills in the largest education mission Ireland has ever sent to India. Bangalore, New Delhi, and Mumbai, the key areas of high technology industry, commerce, and politics were visited during the Indian trip.


The objective was to emphasise Ireland as a centre for international students, promote the quality of learning institutions and to increase market share of the number of Indian students who study and travel abroad.

Along with significant input from one of Ireland’s leading corporate investors, this alliance will show the high level of integration and commitment across Irish research and education sectors. There are almost 1,000 Indian students studying in Ireland currently so there is opportunity to capture more of the Indian market. Studies are mostly post-graduate degree courses in Pharmacy, Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Hospitality and Hotel Management and Accounting.

Ireland has exceptional third level institutions and private colleges offering every type of graduate and postgraduate education. Diversity is the lifeblood of every economy so an increase in the number of foreign students will give all students an advantage by equipping them with the inter-cultural knowledge needed in the global marketplace.

Minister Cannon

Before departing to India, Minister Cannon said, “We will be sending out a strong message to prospective Indian students that an Irish education is valued by international employers and will provide a real boost to their future career prospects.”

The Minister also stressed the economic benefits for Ireland, “In addition to being future ambassadors for Ireland, international students also help to generate jobs here in Ireland. It is estimated that every 100 additional international students who come to Ireland support the creation of 15 local jobs, through spending on tuition, accommodation and other living expenses.”

Indian Education Sector

The Indian education sector represents one of the largest worldwide. USD 100bn was the 2011 total expenditure for this sector and this is expected to steadily increase to a sum of USD 185bn in 2015. With a population of some 600 million people falling into the 0 to 24 years category, this population group, which is also the largest globally, is the target market for increasing the number of Indian students coming to study in Ireland.

The base population is significant and together with rising household incomes across India, it seems likely to trigger healthy growth in demand across a broad range of sectors including education. Establishing close alliances with businesses and educational establishments in India are a priority for the country to promote the high quality and global recognition of Irish qualifications.

Education in Ireland

The Education in Ireland initiative is part of a government strategy “Investing in Global Relationships” and India was identified as a top priority marketplace to advance Ireland as a world-class location for study. Relationship building, raising awareness of the education system in Ireland and collaborating with Indian counterparts over the next three years hopes to fulfil the objective of doubling the number of Indian students studying in Ireland by 2015.

Trinity College

Universities are also doing what they can to entice Indian students to Ireland. Trinity College Dublin for instance has set up a special recruitment office in Delhi last month to promote the university to prospective students. Collaborations with IIT Delhi, the Indian Institute of Science and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research already give students the opportunity to study at Trinity. The new office is to actively promote and encourage Indian students to travel to Ireland to study at Trinity as a priority.

Recently, a successful Indian film Ek Tha Tiger was also shot on location in Trinity College, and the university has since made the film director Yosh Chapra one of Bollywood’s most famous directors an honourary professor, establishing exactly the right kind of alliance and promotion Ireland needs to encourage students to study here.

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Irish Youth Vision for Reform in Education, Irish Language, and Politics

Education reform was on the agenda at a convention in Áras an Uachtaráin this month. An initiative from President Michael D. Higgins started in May 2012 resulted in a comprehensive study involving 800 young people that culminated in the drafting of the “Take Charge of Change” declaration at the convention. A report entitled Being Young in Ireland 2012 was published as part of the initiative.

The initiative was to discover the vision of Ireland that young people see across all areas of life including education. High on the agenda was a fresh approach to teaching Irish and a reform of the current Leaving certificate, points system, and rote learning, which the group considered a barrier to “active citizenship”.

The young people called for legislation for the X-case, which is particularly relevant in light of the recent tragic circumstances of Savita Halappanavar the Indian Galway resident who sadly lost her life after she was refused an abortion. There was also a call for a referendum on abortion.

The presidency seminar was rich with thought and meaningful debate and highlighted the genuine concern of the next generation whose recommendations for a fairer and inclusive Ireland had clarity and maturity.

The “Being Young in Ireland 2012” report reveals concern about the future of the Irish economy, political reforms, and education that prepares citizens for a life equipped with the necessary skills to play a meaningful role in society.


The young people’s declaration was delivered in front of the President, Frances Fitzgerald Minister for Children, and a delegation of representatives from State agencies.

The vision states:

Our vision for Ireland Is of a secular, inclusive, multilingual, confident State with excellent and universally accessible education, health and social support systems; an Ireland of which we can be proud on the global stage; a place where people, arts, culture, heritage, sport and the Irish language are nurtured and developed.”

The outline emphasises the value of human rights and equality of access to services with an emphasis on education, equal opportunities, and inclusion.

The President stated, “Any president of any country in the world would be enormously proud of the presentation”. He was full of praise for the focus on education, social justice, and the promotion of diversity.

“If anyone is in any doubt now about the myth that’s going around that young people are disengaged, disaffected, and cynical, well there is your answer,” he added.

The comprehensive declaration called on the lawmakers to extend adoption and equal marriage rights to gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender people. It also asked that the Government extend voting rights to the Diaspora abroad.

Main Proposals of the Declaration

  • A double-edged approach to Irish teaching should be adapted at leaving certificate with a compulsory module (spoken Irish) and a second optional module (literature.) This new program should be steered by the Gaelscoileanna organisation.
  • Legislation to be ratified for the X case.
  • Social opportunity development for the Irish language.
  • Equality of rights for adoption and marriage for all currently excluded persons.
  • Introduce legislation to allow absent citizens outside their jurisdiction to vote.
  • Initiate a young people’s campaign to encourage active citizenship.
  • Allocate CAO points for community and voluntary work as part of a broader educational curriculum.
  • Youth sector funding to be increased and maintained.
  • Leaving Certificate reform where class participation is hands on with opportunities for lifelong learning.
  • Local government changes that will allow national representatives to be uninvolved with politics at the local and regional level.
  • Introduce lessons at primary and post primary level to teach children and young people on tolerance, acceptance, and diversity.
  • Increase special needs education funding and extend the scope of the second level IT curriculum.
  • Strive for an Irish State that is secular.
  • Second level curriculum reform to include education in politics.
  • Set up a new employment scheme for graduates that utilises their skills.

This may seem a Utopian vision but there is much to be learned from the fresh and unfettered minds of young people. In particular, their education vision takes an inclusive approach so that less academically minded students might gain a comprehensive education of value based on citizenship skills and their own personal talents.

Studying for life does not mean overlooking the basic essential skills but rather enhancing them using a variety of learning tools from different kinds of education modules and courses, and volunteer and community participation suited to individual talents. Participation in the community rewarded with CAO points could open doors for many students and give them self-confidence and sense of purpose.

A broader curriculum that allows students to pursue individual voyages of discovery establishing necessary life skills has much to recommend it. An inclusive society of well-rounded citizens who have a sense of unity and awareness of what active citizenship means is to be celebrated.

Denise Colebrooke

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College Funding Options

student fundingPaying for a University Education can be expensive and overwhelming, but there are options, and not just bank loans and part-time jobs. There are many scholarships, grants, and bursaries available based on, among other things, where you live, clubs you’re a member of, your subject of study, and your own personal background.

Undergraduate tuition fees start at about €4100 upwards, with professional programmes such as law and medicine costing more. Most colleges have extra charges such as sports centre fees and an annual student services charge or registration fee, which covers student services and examinations. In September 2011 the Student Services Charge will be replaced by a flat-rate student contribution of €2,000 per year.

For postgraduate study, there is more variation among the different universities’ fees. Fees for research degrees average more than €4,000, while fees for taught degree programmes can be under €4,000 or as high as €10,000. The charge for an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) course can be as high as €25,000. The cost of tuition alone can be off putting, and there is also additional living costs, but try not to let this deter you. There are many funding opportunities for furthering your education offered by government agencies, the colleges themselves, and private organisations.

Some potential students may qualify to have their Undergraduate course fees covered by the state. In order to qualify for free fees the course must be full-time and of at least two years’ duration (or certain one year courses in an institute of technology). You can’t already hold an equivalent qualification and you can’t be repeating the year because of previously failing your exams. You must be an EU national, have immigrant status, or meet residency requirements. There is no separate application for the Free Fees Initiative, rather eligibility is assessed based on the information you give when applying for a college place. If you do not qualify for free fees, you may still qualify for full or partial payment of fees if you satisfy the conditions of the Higher Education Grants Scheme.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) Grants Scheme and the Vocational Education Committees’ (VEC)  Scholarship Scheme’ are two types of means-tested maintenance grants offered by the Irish government and administered through County Councils. Conditions for application can be found on the Department of Education and Skills website ( Official application forms are available from the local authority or While the HEA Grants Scheme is intended for students starting courses, the VEC Scholarship Scheme is geared towards students who have completed two years of a Level 7 (Ordinary Bachelor Degree or National Diploma) course and so have gained admission into year two of a Level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degree) course.

In searching for funding, you’ll encounter the terms fellowship, scholarship, and bursaries. The terms are often used interchangeably. General scholarships and bursaries are offered and may be given to students who will attend school full time, have a minimum average grade of at least a B average, and who can demonstrate financial need, but there are many opportunities available to specific groups depending on what you’re studying, where you live, membership in banks or sports clubs, or background.

There are usually more opportunities to acquire funding when the subject studied is in demand. Most of the sciences, in particular maths and engineering have some funding at postgraduate level via private industry. For example, The Science Foundation Ireland/DELL Scholarship provides funding for female engineering students. The INTEL, Shannon Women in Technology Scholarship is open to first or second year female undergraduates planning to study computer science. The Irish Taxation Institute Third Level Scholarship Programme is for those interested in a career in taxation.

Area-based Scholarships, besides the HEA grants, include those sometimes offered by city or county councils, sports organisations, or private industry that provide funding opportunities for area residents. Some Credit Unions award a number of education grants or bursaries in their catchment areas for students studying at all levels of higher education. For example, the Cathedral Credit Union in Cork offers a €3,000 Bursary Award to a members entering full-time third level education for the first time. Sports groups such as various Rugby and GAA clubs offer competitive educational bursaries to members.

Both scholarships and bursaries are often targeted to specific groups: single parents, disabled students, or the specific research goals as a student. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds there are several scholarships including the All Ireland Scholarship Scheme that provides third-level education scholarships to top-performing Leaving Certificate students. The Donogh O’Malley Scholarship Scheme offers a minimum of three scholarships in each of the following regions: Dublin City and County, Rest of Leinster, Munster, Connacht/Ulster, with additional awards to be provided in the areas with greater numbers of eligible students.

Fellowships are usually based on skill, GPA, and qualifications to work in a certain field, as opposed to need. Often Fellowships are payment for some type of work, such as internships, fieldwork, or teaching at the college level, while obtaining a master’s degree or PhD. They are intended to enhance the student’s training and support the student so they may focus on their study without needing additional income. Fellowships range from around €10,000 to over €20,000. Again subject areas that are in need of graduates receive most Fellowship funding; Science Foundation Ireland offers fellowships in many areas of science including biomedical research, botany, and chemistry. The Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences holds an annual competition for students entering postgraduate study and in their first few years.

Colleges’ often provide funding themselves, the faculty, and departmental websites will detail the bursaries and prizes on offer. In addition check each school’s Graduate Studies website for information about possible funding. The National University of Ireland (consisting of UCD, UCC, NUI Galway and NUI Maynooth, and a number of other colleges) administers a number of postgraduate prizes and scholarships. Visit or the specific member College website for details. In addition the websites for each Institute of Technology, DCU, University of Limerick, and Trinity College all list specific prizes, bursaries, scholarships, and Fellowships on offer. For a list of scholarships and fellowships both in Ireland and abroad, see

The Erasmus programme allows registered undergraduate and postgraduate students to apply for financial support to enable them to spend periods from three to twelve months studying or working in another participating country. The eligible countries are all member states of the EU as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Turkey.

Funding agencies do encourage education as an investment for the community and the future, and people who have the ambition and ability should be encouraged and supported, so if you do require funding for your education dont hesitate to try the options outlined above. Your local county council will probably be the best place to start or individual colleges will usually be very helpfult to prospective students.


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November 2012 E-News

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Newly Qualified Teachers Struggle for Employment

teaching jobs scarceThere was a time when a career in teaching was synonymous with security and permanency; a job for life. Today, advertisements for school substitution work are guaranteed to fill school post boxes to the brim with CVs and cover letters from qualified and overly qualified applicants – desperate to get that ‘foot in the door’ of a school. Unemployed teachers and especially newly qualified teachers are facing huge difficulty in getting work this year. Why? Education cuts continue to take their toll on staffing, along with a few other worrying (less talked about) issues and practices.

In every industry and in every system there will always be an element of unfairness and nepotism; the education system is not immune to these regrettable practices. It doesn’t help unemployed teachers or those on few hours to see retired teachers brought in for sub-work or to fill maternity/sick leave. It certainly does not help when retired teachers or those with posts of responsibility are given supervisory/examiner roles during state exams; which gives a healthy financial top-up to an already healthy income.

Recent claims and figures show that in the first six weeks of this school year, 140 retired teachers were called on to do substitution work. The daily sub-rate for primary teaching and per hour for a secondary school teacher would help a lot of newly qualified teachers to pay back college loans, pay mortgages or their landlords. Unemployed teachers must be wondering why some principals are not abiding by a recently made rule in relation to them; a rule which obliges principals to give priority to unemployed teachers. In the case of the 140 retirees given work; those seeking work were left wondering: was it not possible to find an unemployed teacher in the case of these 140 positions?

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation announced that schools all over the country were getting an over-response to advertised positions. INTO president Anne Fay made the point, that it showed the extent of current teacher unemployment. Although growing enrolments mean additional teachers have to be employed for new classes; this recruitment is offset by serious reductions in areas such as resource and English-language teaching. In the case of secondary schools; the reduction in Guidance provision means guidance counsellors have to return to teaching main stream classes which eats into the general teacher allocation. Ms Fay said: “In every county in Ireland there are highly qualified teachers looking for work.” She also added that despite this, Ireland has some of the largest classes in the EU at primary level.

It is a real matter of concern when one looks at the fact that most schools get up to 500 applications for one or two positions. There is also another worrying issue: a lot of advertised jobs are just that – advertisements! There is the possibility that the job is earmarked for somebody known to the school or the principal.

Many principals who are genuinely seeking suitable applicants are empathetic to those seeking work – with some principals noting the high calibre of teachers applying for the advertised position. Some applicants are qualified in more than one discipline – with one or two undergraduate degrees and postgraduate qualifications, not to mention the additional extra-curricular qualifications they offer a school. They are also noticing how some applicants are repeat applicants which means they (more than likely) have remain unemployed between both positions being advertised.

What are the solutions? Principals who fail to apply the rule of preference given to unemployed teachers should be held accountable. Perhaps the government needs to put an official moratorium on third level places for student teachers until the existing numbers of those unemployed are significantly reduced. The government needs to overlook teacher training akin to the Garda training; recruitment and training is a result of demand and need. Finally, nepotism should be ruled out by issuing all principals guidelines when it comes to appropriate recruitment.

It is ironic that teachers (employed and unemployed) have to pay ninety euros per annum to the Teaching Council of Ireland when so many of them are unemployed. Perhaps the Teaching Council should be given the role of monitoring appropriate recruitment of teachers to school. It would also not be a hard task for the Teaching Council to set up a registrar of qualified unemployed teachers for principals to draw from according to their geographical location and school need. Unemployed teachers might see it as ninety euros worthwhile if this was put into place.

It is estimated that there are over 110,000 unemployed graduates in the country. Teacher Unions estimate that there are in excess of 800-1,000 trained primary teachers who are not in regular employment; with a higher number of unemployed or under-employed teachers at the post-primary level.

At the moment the future looks bleak for teaching as a career – that is, if you haven’t ‘got a foot’ in a school door already.

Catriona Lowry

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Creative Writing Courses

creative writing classesA Cork author is hoping to save people time and money through her online creative writing courses. Olive O’Brien set up Creative Writing Ink to facilitate people who do not have the time to travel to creative writing workshops. At present, Creative Writing Ink offers online writing courses, which include advanced creative writing, writing for children, screenwriting courses and more.

They also run an online beginners creative writing course, which is suitable for complete beginners or for more experienced writers who would like to get back into a creative writing routine. Creative Writing Ink has just launched an offer on this course, for full details check out their website at

All tutors are published authors and work with students at their own level. “Our online courses allow students to develop their writing skills through one-to-one exercises, lectures and critiques,” says Olive. “However the main thing is to free up your imagination and above all have fun.”

In addition, Creative Writing Ink offers a full editing service for aspiring novelists or short story writers. For more information see or email

About Olive O’Brien: Olive is a children’s writer and she set up Silver Angel Publishing, a children’s book publishing company in 2009. Her publishing company was shortlisted for the Green Communications Award for this year’s Green Awards and for the David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards 2012.

Olive previously practised as a solicitor and in 2006, she returned to university to complete a Masters in Journalism at DCU. She then worked as an intern at The Sunday Business Post in Dublin and as a features writer at Mid-Day newspaper in Bangalore, India.

In 2008, Olive set out on a round the world trip and on her return to Ireland later that year, she wrote her first book, Perry the Playful Polar Bear which was released in 2009. Olive then published two eco-friendly books Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green and Eco Zico, which is also available as an e-book and as an app for the iPad.

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About Grundtvig

grundtvig programmeGrundtvig is a European initiative which seeks to improve the quality and European dimension of adult education. Their aim is to make lifelong learning opportunities extensively available to Europe’s citizens. Grundtvig primarily focuses on education for adults, and uses both formal and informal methods to do so. Their activities are open to any group or institution involved in adult education within the Lifelong Learning Programme countries.

Grundtvig Sub-Programmes include:

Learning Partnerships:

Grundtvig Learning Partnerships form a structure and means for practical co-operation activities between organisations working in adult education. These partnerships primarily focus on process, and are intended for smaller organisations. Eventually, Grundtvig Learning Partnerships may lead to more larger-scale projects such as Grundtvig Multilateral Projects or Grundtvig Thematic Networks. A Grundtvig Learning Partnership normally takes place over two years and during this phase, learners and adult education staff from at least three participating countries come together to work on a project with a specific theme that is of common interest.

Senior Volunteering:

Part of GIVE (Grundtvig Initiative on Volunteering in Europe for Seniors), this new initiative offers grants to local organisations in order to support senior volunteers. There are many objectives to ‘Senior Volunteering’, including: enabling senior citizens to volunteer in another European country and to create on-going cooperation between the host and sending organisations around a specific topic or target group


Grundtvig Workshops give adult learners the opportunity to take part in learning events and seminars which take place in another European country participating in the Lifelong Learning Programme.

In-Service Training:

Grundtvig In-Service Training enables those involved in the delivery of adult education to attend training courses, which last up to six weeks long in order to develop professionally. Training is carried out through well-organised and structured courses for staff working in adult education.

Visits and Exchanges:

The aim of Visits and Exchanges is to improve the quality of adult learning by encouraging and enabling present or future staff working in this field or those involved in the training of such staff to undertake a work- related visit to a country participating in the Lifelong Learning Programme. These Visits and Exchanges can take the form of a work placement or job shadowing etc.


Under Grundtvig, funding is offered to teachers and education staff who attend contact seminars with a view to setting up links with schools across Europe.


Grundtvig Assistantships give present or future staff involved in adult education the opportunity to spend a period of between 12-45 weeks as a Grundtvig Assistant at another European adult education organisation that is participating in the Lifelong Learning Programme. The objective of Asssistanships is to give those participating the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the European dimension to adult learning, including: advance their knowledge of foreign languages; find out more about European education systems; and to improve their intercultural competencies.

Preparatory Visits:

Under Grundtvig, funding is also available for adult education professionals to undertake preparatory visits with a view to developing partnerships and preparing projects with organisations that are similar across Europe.


Grundtvig provides funding to teachers and education staff to attend contact seminars with a view to setting up links and creating partnerships with other schools across Europe.

If you have an interest in Grundtvig and the funding opportunities they offer; Léargas will be holding an information session in Sligo Education Centre on the 8th of November

The session will introduce and explain the comprehensive activities and application procedures for the following actions under the Grundtvig Programme:

•Learning Partnerships

•Senior Volunteering Action


•In Service Training

•Visits and exchanges

•Assistantship Action

•Contact Seminars and Preparatory Visits

This information session will be of value and interest to all those working with adults returning to education. It is also aimed at targeting those interested in: collaborating, sharing expertise, and developing best practice with other European organisations through project work. The session will mainly be of interest to those wishing to continue their professional development via training opportunities provided in another eligible European country.

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