OVER ONE-THIRD of third-level students in Ireland are experiencing serious financial problems, according to a new report on their living conditions.
The Eurostudent VI study, the sixth report of its kind into how students experience university life, is set to be published today. More than 20,000 students responded to the survey.
The overall average monthly income for all students was €754, while the average expenditure on living costs was €832 (42% of which was provided by someone other than the student, usually a parent or partner), according to the report’s findings.
Accommodation was the single largest expenditure (4% of overall expenditure), with an average monthly spend of €365.
Over one-third (about 36%) of the total student population said they are experiencing serious or very serious financial problems, and the degree to which they are experiencing this appears to be related to their age. Older students were more likely to experience financial difficulties, with 42% of students over the age of 24 saying this is the case for them.
Since the last Eurostudent report in 2013, average monthly income has increased for all groups except postgraduates students. Average monthly living costs have remained relatively static.
For full-time undergraduates and all postgraduates the distribution of costs is now to a lesser extent borne by the students themselves, who have become more reliant on these costs being met by their parents and partners.
Some 32% of the total student population are in receipt of funding from a non-repayable national student source such as a Student Universal Support Ireland grant, or money from the Irish Research Council.
Most students in higher education are undertaking undergraduate courses (85%). The majority of these undergraduates are studying full-time (77%), whereas only 8% of undergraduates are studying part-time. Postgraduates form 15% of the total student population and, of this, 8% are studying full-time and 7% are studying part-time.
Since the previous survey in 2013, the numbers of students enrolled in higher education has increased by 7.8%.
Overall, students reported high levels of satisfaction about the quality of teaching they received during their course (about seven in 10 students in every grouping, as shown above).
While the gender balance at higher level is relatively even, a higher proportion of females were found in certain study areas, such as Education, Services, Social Science, and Humanities and Arts.
Male students, by comparison, were found more in the areas of Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Maths, Computing, Computer Science, Sport and Leisure. Similar proportions of male and female students were found in the areas of Science and Business.
A higher proportion of male students attend Institutes of Technology than females, and a higher proportion of female students are found at Universities or Associate/Affiliate Colleges.
Mature students account for 22% of the total student population, and have an average age of 36.3 years (34.4 for full-time students and 39.2 for part-time students). Of the part-time undergraduate student population, 90% are mature students.
Mature students are more likely to attend Institutes of Technology than Universities or their Associate/Affiliate Colleges. Mature students are also more likely to study at Higher Education Institutions outside of Dublin.
The survey indicates that 12% of the total student population have children. This is two percentage points higher than what was observed in last Eurostudent report. However, this rise is unequally distributed across students.
Of the full-time undergraduate population, only 6% of students have children, whereas this was 10% in the Eurostudent V study.
Of the part-time undergraduate population, 48% have children, whereas in Eurostudent V this was 45%.
For postgraduates, 11% of full-time students have children and 47% of part-time students have children. Of the total postgraduate population, 27% have children, which is similar to the level of 28% observed in the previous report.
Overall, approximately 20% of all students indicated they have a disability. A higher level of disability is noted for full-time students than part-time students.
The study areas with the highest proportions of students with disabilities are Catering, Humanities and Arts, and Social Science. The study areas with the lowest proportions of students with disabilities are Education, and Health and Welfare.
The most commonly reported disabilities are mental health problems and learning disabilities. About 8% of students with disabilities consider their disability as severely limiting their studies
Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor is set to launch the Eurostudent VI study while visiting the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) Mayo campus in Castlebar today.
Speaking about the report, Mitchell O’Connor said: “Having access to high quality data, and hearing more from students on their experience of higher education is critical to inform sound policy decisions to ensure we are doing the right things for our student cohort.”