While in the past it wasn’t seen as particularly important, in recent years the college has become especially proud of its internationalism. Increasing the intake of foreign students has become an ambition of Provost Patrick Prendergast, who recently announced that just in the past two years the number of non-EU students at Trinity has increased by 20 per cent. Last month, Trinity was ranked as the 40th most international university in the world by Times Higher Education. The methodology refers only to the number of academic articles produced by the institution that have a foreign co-author. However, in terms of “being international”, Trinity has consistently proved its competence. With academia and education rapidly becoming a borderless business, our university is taking strong steps to ensure Ireland plays an active role in the future. But there are a number of ways it can and must improve. As the former treasurer of the Society for International Affairs and now secretary of DU International Students Society (DUISS), I hope to shine some light on the matter.
The increasing ease of relocating, acquiring visas, and obtaining information about study options online has forced Irish universities to both compete and collaborate with the outside world.
Being seen as an international university has become exceptionally important in recent years. The marketplace of information is expanding quickly as, like much else in the world, globalisation has taken hold. The increasing ease of relocating, acquiring visas, and obtaining information about study options online has forced Irish universities to both compete and collaborate with the outside world. Educational standards in the developing world are quickly catching up with Western Europe, and to continue to have relevance we must be able to attract the brightest students from overseas to ensure we continue to have a reputation for academic excellence.
A high intake of foreign students benefits Irish students in a number of ways. Not only does making links with people from across the globe have a positive effect on Ireland’s future cosmopolitanism, but it also offers an opportunity to foster mutual understanding between cultures. Moreover, those who claim “Irish university places should be kept for the Irish” fail to realise that by closing itself off to the outside world, Irish academia would cease to have any relevance.
Much has been done by the college to encourage an international campus. Most full-time Irish students might not notice, but Erasmus and foreign exchange in Trinity is huge. Signing up many hundreds of students in Fresher’s week, DUISS boasts more members than some of the most prominent societies on campus, such as DU History. Each year, highly-educated people from around the world come to study here, and acquire in Dublin a psychological, emotional and academic connection with the country that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. This is doing a great deal to promote not only the university but the whole country abroad to some of tomorrow’s most important people.
Unlike the Irish, foreign students can’t just pop to Dublin for a viewing and landlords usually don’t want to rent to someone they can’t meet beforehand.
Trinity has developed a number of key mechanisms for supporting foreign students. One of the biggest issues facing foreign students is accommodation. Unlike the Irish, foreign students can’t just pop to Dublin for a viewing and landlords usually don’t want to rent to someone they can’t meet beforehand. The college not only helps by giving priority access to TCD accommodation to some full-time foreign students, but the Accommodation Service provides listings, advice and support in helping find somewhere to live, making Dublin a more accessible place. The college has also proved keen to offer Foundation Degrees to those from less educationally fortunate countries for free. These allow students to gain a qualification that permits them to enroll in an undergraduate course afterwards, where the pre-university exams in their countries are not seen as adequate. Another vital service is providing lessons in academic English, which have proven key for integrating foreign students and allowing them to fulfil their potential.
However, there are still ways that Trinity can improve its international facilities to boost itself in the international rankings. First, it must expand knowledge of the university. Trinity is relatively unheard of, considering its high position in the global league tables. When we think of moving abroad for studying in English, the first and obvious choices are Britain and the US. Not only does Trinity rank higher and provide better educational facilities than the majority of institutions in both these countries, but it is also considerably cheaper, especially for EU students. Our university must promote itself, and in doing so it will make Ireland more prominent on the educational map.
For Trinity to be recognised as one of the most international universities is certainly something to be proud of, and the Provost’s efforts are proving beneficial. As the foremost Irish university, Trinity must ensure that it is fully connected to modern global academia. The most important way it can do this is to stress its credentials to the world and make itself heard. We have a great amount to offer, and it’s about time everyone knew it.