Monday, December 16, 2013

"From graduation to emigration" via @Independent_ie - What are we doing at Third Level?

Recent NUI Galway graduate Seán Dunne writes in today's Irish Independent about the road "From graduation to emigration". Dunne is emigrating to New York where there are far more opportunities for a graduate with a Masters in Journalism than here in Ireland. You can get a sense of the difficulty he had in making the decision to emigrate when he writes "the decision to throw the towel in on Ireland and to seek work abroad was agonising", but in the end he has decided that "as a single 24-year-old, emigration is a positive thing".

Image source: Cartoon by Eoin Kelleher via Irish Independent.
I am one of the thousands of parents in Ireland of graduates who have emigrated - I haven't seen my eldest daughter for over a year. Phone/Twitter/Facebook is no substitute for a hug, and it is difficult for all parents to have to bear absences like this for a long time.

I am also a lecturer at third level and I have mixed feelings about graduates having to emigrate. One might ask why we are turning out graduates in fields where the only work is outside of Ireland? Are we wasting our own time, our students' time, and precious State resources in educating students for the emigration trail? On the other hand, in today's smaller world we should be turning out graduates who can work anywhere in the world - which is what we do. It was always a regret of mine that I never worked abroad, especially in the UK and USA. While it is regrettable that students like Seán Dunne feel forced to emigrate, it is also a fantastic opportunity to live and learn in another country. 

Should we be only providing third-level education in subjects for which there are jobs available for graduates? My sense of it is "No". College is more than just about getting a piece of paper at the end - it is a life changing experience that prepares students for the real world. I'm quite happy to continue to work with students who might have to emigrate - I'd much prefer if they did go rather than remain in Ireland with little or no opportunity to develop into the people they want to be.

My grandfather, at the age of about 41, emigrated to Canada in 1956 to create a new life for him and his family (who joined him a year later). My Mum, who was engaged to my Dad at the time, was the only member of her family to stay in Ireland. Emigration has been with us in Ireland for centuries, we have to wave good bye to our children just as our ancestors have done. 

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