Is UCD a university to be proud of?

 
 

Is UCD a university that deserves admiration, or could it do more to serve the needs of its students and boost its reputation? Lauren Tracey and Evan O’Quigley debate whether or not UCD is a university to be proud of.

Yes – Lauren Tracey

UCD is most certainly a university to be proud of. We dominate in the world of academia, producing some of the greatest thinkers this country has ever seen. We are held in high esteem and ranked likewise, continually topping both European and global rankings. University College Dublin also carries with it an element of fame, having seen so many of its past students go on to bigger and better things, James Joyce being perhaps one of our most famous alumni. UCD is a university to be proud of because our students and our faculties strive to provide excellence in every sector of our university. Everyone carries with them that infamous UCD pride.

Why wouldn’t we? We have some of the most incredible alumni; the best of the best, from all sectors of Irish society, have walked through the hallways of University College Dublin. UCD played a part in forming some of the greatest literary minds in the world, from the famous poet Gerard Manly Hopkins, to the contemporary novelist Maeve Binchy and the immortal James Joyce, considered by many to be one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

In the fields of journalism we exceed ourselves, with alumni such as Samantha Libreri, Vincent Brown, Fintan O’Toole, Pat Leahy and Miriam O’Callaghan.

However the university has not only produced great writers and journalists, but great business minds and heads of state. The newspaper tycoon Tony O’Reilly and king of radio Denis O’Brian, head of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan as well as Eamon De Valera and Douglas Hyde are all notable UCD alumni.

In sport and the arts we’ve seen Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon Darcy, Amy Huberman and Gabriel Byrne. Pat Kenny and Brendan Gleeson are also honourable UCD students. UCD is of course a university to be proud of when it has managed to help shape and teach these individuals who have made such an impact on our society and culture.

Academically UCD has proven itself to be a gem. Our university has consistently been ranked as one of the best in the world. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-2012 placed us at 159th globally, and 67th in Europe. The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2011 set UCD in 78th place globally. This is no wonder when we explore the depth of what UCD has to offer its students. UCD is the country’s leading research centre, with a research income of 114.7 million euro during the height of the boom years. Research institutes housed within the university include the Clinton Institute for American Studies, the Centre for Research of Infectious Diseases, the Equality Studies Institute and many more. UCD is a university to be proud of because academically, we are in our prime. UCD offers students a diverse range of courses, from Archaeology to Linguistics, English to Economics, and that’s just our Arts program. Law, Science, Medicine, Architecture, Engineering and Veterinary Medicine are amongst the many choices for students attending UCD.

We can look at the list of our famous alumni, and then at all the academic achievements UCD has to its name, but the most important reason to be proud of UCD as a university is our friendly and inclusive student body. Not once have I ever felt lost or alone among the population of 25,000 students on the Belfield campus. Students in UCD go out of their way to ensure that everyone feels part of the family; societies, class trips, nights out, even class Facebook pages all allow students to meet, get in touch and become friends. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t walk through the corridors of the Newman building without waving hello to a dozen passers-by who have greeted me with a friendly face. We should be proud that even in a university with a population so large, our students manage to make everyone feel like part of the UCD team, family, whatever you would like to call it.

I cannot think for one moment when considering every aspect of UCD; the academia, the prestige, the friendly and inclusive atmosphere, why anyone could ever suggest that UCD isn’t a university to be proud of.

Rebuttal – Evan O’Quigley

There is no question that UCD has produced impressive alumni, from journalists and actors, to writers and academics. However, if you will notice one thing about the long list named in the opposing argument, it is that most, if not all of these names, are from the past. Indeed, many famous faces have passed through the halls of our many buildings, but as of late, it seems that UCD is falling behind.

UCD has continually dropped down the university rankings over the past several years. Having previously been in the top one hundred as recently as 2009, the last three years have seen the plummeting of the University’s international credentials. Of course, much of this is the result of numerous government cutbacks, and is not necessarily the fault of the college.

However, as for a ‘friendly and inclusive’ student body? While in my own personal experience, most students here are indeed are lovely folk, apparently not all students feel the same way. An extraordinary forty-four per cent of students told the University Observer in a poll conducted last November that they felt societies were ‘cliquish’ and ‘exclusive’. This is indeed an unfortunate statistic, considering the active roll societies are supposed to play in college social life.

There are many reasons why UCD is not a University to be proud of, but I guess, what are you going to do about it, go to Trinity?

No – Evan O’Quigley

Last week a friend of mine sat in Starbucks in the Quinn Building, when he overheard another student asking a staff member for a glass of water. When she responded that she did not have a glass, but instead could give the student a cup of water, he sneered and turned to his friend saying ‘To think I have shares in this place’. Whether he was joking or not is a mystery, but one point about this story is clear, be it taken as fact, or simply allegory. This type of attitude in UCD makes it, to this writer, not a place to be proud of.

UCD is, certainly from an academic point of view, a good, if not great, University. It has produced many of Ireland’s greatest exports, such as James Joyce, Gabriel Byrne, Neil Jordan, and Dermott Morgan, and of course some we can be more critical of (Charles Haughey and Brian Cowen spring to mind). This however, does not answer the question, ‘Is UCD a University to be proud of?’ As of late, I’m not so sure that it is.

Several thousand students are accepted into UCD every September, expecting to arrive at a great public institution. A place of freedom of thought and expression, far removed from the corporatised dystopia that Ireland seems to have become over the last twenty years. President Michael D. Higgins recently stated that a ‘materialistic society’ and ‘radical individualism’ were to blame for the current misery Ireland has been left to deal with following the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy some four years ago. Perhaps it was naïve of me to believe that our universities would not have been subjected to the same type of economic ‘Profit before People’ type thinking that our elected representatives have been routed in for some time. Of course, I was wrong.

Every week we see headlines in student media regarding some new privatisation proposal and fights between trade unions and University management. A fortnight ago, during the protest against the Students’ Union’s dismissal of employees in the Copy Print bureau, a second issue was highlighted that has gone with somewhat less notice: the planned privatisation of the main Restaurant. This September the licensing rights to the majority of catering outlets on campus were handed over to the Kylemore Services Group, a private catering company that has outlets on many universities around the country. SIPTU, Ireland’s largest trade union, has called for an “end to privatisation” of the University services.

It is somewhat embarrassing that today the college seems to be more concerned with maintaining a good business model than maintaining its position as a great centre of learning and providing students with an authentic college experience. This is, of course, through no fault of any students, academics or staff members, but rather a result of the kind of ‘radical individualism’, which seems to have taken over the country in a larger sense. The idea that everything be about markets and private enterprise has taken too great a hold of both the national conversation, as well as conversation in the University itself. For this reason UCD needs to move on, and get back to what the University should be, and used to be about.

Rebuttal – Lauren Tracey

I personally don’t think that we can judge an entire university based on what I truly believe is a minority attitude that permeated the younger generations of Irish society during the boom. Over the past number of years many of us have been influenced by the follies of the Celtic Tiger generation, but we have learned and we’ve grown, and this fact is evident all around campus in the nature of our students. This is perhaps another reason we should be proud of our university: our ability to adapt.

Yes, there may be issues and problems at our bureaucratic base, but really, where isn’t there? These issues are far removed from us as students, and the reasons I am proud to be enrolled at UCD. I am talking about the student, and the students’ reasons to be proud of university; our great academics, our prestigious reputation, and our open, friendly atmosphere.

To argue that we cannot be proud of UCD as a university because of the basic nature of how the University has to run to keep afloat is ridiculous. We must view this issue with more depth and examine the University as a whole, not just as a “good business model.”

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