Archive for July, 2011

Student's hat

The recent tuition fee rises in England (rising from just over £3,000 each year to just over £9,000 each year) has left many people feeling the pinch and wondering how they are going to fund their way through University. For some, it will mean taking extra gap years in order to save up some money; for others, it’ll mean a bigger debt to pay off a the end; still others are wondering if they can afford to go to University at all.

Education specialists are warning that the sharp fee rise will create a market economy in the education sphere, whereby students opt for studying only the subjects that are directly employable such as business, management and sciences, and refrain from studying more analytical subjects such as English, History and Philosophy. They worry that this will lead to an overall decrease in critical reasoning and analytical skills in British society, and fear that the overall effect will be one that is negative in a culture where, as postmodernism reminds us, we are always in more and more need of those skilled in philosophy and the humanities.

However, worried Brits will be reassured to know that there is another way. Like many other countries, the government in Ireland pays fees not only for Irish students but also for any other students in EU countries. Providing you are a EU citizen and you’re pursuing your first undergraduate degree, you are eligible for free fees in nearly all Irish Universities, giving you access to a wide range of course subjects – and the good news is that you can apply straight from A Levels. There are also a variety of maintenance grants up for grabs which will offset the cost of living.

This means that the only fees that have to be paid are the annual student registration fees. Whilst arguably these are tuition fees by another name (indeed, some University heads have admitted as such), at 1,500 – 2000 euro per annum (approximately £1,200 – £1,800), they are vast saving on the price of fees in England and Wales. You’d be getting a top class education by these standards, too – a recent survey rated Ireland as 8th in the world when it comes to the quality of education.

The Irish degree system is generally broader, too – Irish students applying to do a degree in French and Philosophy, for example, would spend their first two years studying various other arts subjects alongside their main subject. This means that graduates leave with a wide skill base and ability for interdisciplinary thinking that is highly prized by employers.

Therefore, if you are worrying about studying in the UK and fretting about how you will be able to afford it, why not consider giving Ireland a shot? After all, even if you just research it, what have you got to lose!


Jim Eastward - Jedi Jim

Last night’s nail-biting final of BBC One’s “The Apprentice” saw Jim Eastwood – dubbed Jedi Jim by many because of his salesmanship abilities and capacity for talking himself out of tricky situations – fired. The 32-year-old from County Tyrone has charmed his way through the series, leaving many of the other contestants awestruck in his path.

However, he fell down on the finale, which involved developing a credible business plan: Lord Sugar obviously felt that Eastwood’s plan of supplying entrepreneurial e-learning to schools lacked the touch that he was looking for.

Jim Eastwood was easily the best salesperson that the programme has ever seen, giving many memorable moments throughout the series, including a scheme to try to sell umbrellas as a tool with which to ‘point’ to tourist landmarks in Ireland.

He also set an Apprentice first by managing to talk himself out of being bought back into the boardroom by project manager Leon after losing a task – this being the act that coined him the name Jedi Jim by fellow Irishman Dara O’Briain.

It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Jedi Jim however – his charm and salesmanship failed at times to impress many of Lord Sugar’s closet aids, leading to a variety of dessert based insults: apparently, nailing something on Jim is alternatively like ‘nailing jelly to a wall’ or ‘nailing custard to the ceiling’ – though I can’t help feeling the second half would be more difficult than the first half.

Either way, Jim Eastwood raised the profile of business in Northern Ireland and went out from the process in glory with his head held high.

Say it with murals in Belfast

bobby sands mural in Belfast

Sadly the extreme actions of a few small groups in Belfast has plunged the city back into the negative glare of the international media. Around the world, commentators have been queuing up to wring their hands about the state of the situation, resulting in what is a minority expression of discontent getting a disproportionate voice through the use of violence and hatred.

It seems a shame that for many people across the world, violence is sometimes seen as the only way to be heard. It is through violence that people feel they can influence things. It is through violence that people try to make those in power sit up and take listen. And yet there is another overlooked aspect of Belfast that speaks of another means of expression: a creative, vibrant, daring rebellion against the status quo that screams out to be heard and yet, often, refuses to countenance the idea of violence. Welcome to the city of murals.

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A portrait of James Joyce

Writing a blog post about James Joyce is quite a lot about writing a blog post about Marmite. Some people are going to love it, whereas others are going to hate it.

Incidentally, this also refers to the reception of Joyce’s writing itself.

There is a huge crowd of readers and scholars who queue up at every possible opportunity to say how much they love Joyce’s writing and how he was a hero who redefined the very meaning of literature. At the same time, there is an equally huge crowd who can’t wait to tell you that Joyce’s work is complete drivel that, in his efforts partly to deconstruct the idea of literature as having meaning, robbed the English-speaking language of a great aspect of literature. Indeed, some scholars think that he alternated between pure genius and pure madness (and anyone who appreciates the works of people like Picasso recognises that frequently a piece of art contains elements of both).

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Irish Shamrock

The shamrock is one of the national symbols of Ireland, along with Guinness, horse racers, the Celtic Cross and good food. The term is actually a catch-all name which can refer to any of a number of three leaved clovers that are common across the nation. However, its symbolic value goes much further than this and has been a powerful icon for many different groups and purposes across the years. Here are just a few of them.

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