Pros & Cons of Universities

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Universities are the most prestigious of Ireland’s third level institutions. Ireland’s universities have a rich history, and offer a huge range of course options, leading many people to decide to put a university course at the top of their CAO choice list. Here are some of the pros and cons involved with taking a third level course at an Irish university.

Ireland’s universities offer courses in a huge range of subjects. You name it, they’ve got a course in it, is pretty much the motto. Accountancy, Advertising, Agriculture, Archaeology, Architecture, Art History, Astrophysics and Athletic Therapy and Training are just some of the subjects available that begin with A. There are plenty of Bs and Cs too, all the way through the alphabet to Wood Science & Technology – which all add up to a great amount of subject choices.

People who are more academically minded might choose university courses over other options. While other third level institutions can focus on more practical and vocational subjects, university courses are more classroom and lecture theatre-based. Obviously, if you choose a course such as science or engineering, you will undertake plenty of practical or laboratory work, and many courses involve work placements as a core part of their programme. Universities do tend to place a heavier emphasis on theory than other third level options.

As universities are seen as more prestigious, the competition for places is fierce and the CAO points needed for universities are relatively high. The points needed for a business course (for example) in a university will probably be higher than for a business course in a college of further education, for example.

Most of Ireland’s universities are big, with thousands of students buzzing around the campus all day. Even some courses can have hundreds of students enrolled. Class sizes can be a bit startling, particularly in first year; some business or arts lectures can take place in rooms that are more like packed cinemas than the classrooms you might be used to at school. Some people find this a little daunting, whereas others thrive in the excitement and bustle of a big campus.

The sheer size of Ireland’s universities is one of their biggest assets. You get access to high quality lecturing staff, modern technologically advanced laboratories and libraries, and thousands of potential new friends. Larger institutions are more likely to have more sports and IT facilities, and a more diverse student body – with clubs and societies covering a huge variety of interests.

Universities generally give the student more responsibility than other third level institutions. The onus is on the student to show initiative in his or her work. This suits some students, who take advantage of the tremendous possibilities of university life and study, but other people find that they work better in a smaller college, where they have more contact and support from their lecturers.
A growing feature of many university courses is the opportunity to study abroad or take up a work placement for a term or year. Many university students taking a broad range of subjects travel to Europe or further afield and attend university in their chosen country. This can be a great experience with students practicing their language skills, experiencing other cultures and making new friends. Work placements can be very useful for students using the skills that they’ve learned at in a real-world setting. While other Irish third level institutions offer similar opportunities, Irish universities now have many links with leading European universities and local and international businesses, which can be very useful for student’s future careers.

It is difficult to say that one type of third level institution offers better job prospects than another, but it is fair to point out that a university education offers a range of high level career options that some other third level colleges may not. We’ve all heard the stories of the millionaire businesspeople who never went to university; statistically, however, your best chance of a successful career is to get an education at the highest level possible. Without being too simplistic about it, your chances of securing a rewarding and interesting job, and earning more money, are increased the higher the level you reach in the education system.

Students who take a university degree are more likely to go on to further postgraduate study or research than those who choose other options. Many postgraduate courses have a degree as their basic entry requirement. Students who choose some other institutions may find themselves ultimately moving on to a degree at a university before entering a postgraduate course.
So, depending on the career you are aiming for, a university could be the best place for you to study at third level. is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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