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DCU welcomes Seanad vote for graduates 28 April 2004

Dublin City University has welcomed the decision of the sub-committee on Seanad Reform to extend the university franchise to DCU, UL and the IT sector. The decision means that 22,000 DCU graduates will be eligible to vote in the Seanad elections for the first time and join their peers in the NUI universities and in Trinity.

As far back as 1979 the seventh amendment to the Constitution permitted the alteration of university representation in Seanad Eireann and provided for the election of members by universities and other institutions of higher education. This amendment was passed with a "yes" vote of 92.4% but the changes were not made to the electoral system until now.

In arguing for the extension of the vote, DCU submitted that the inclusion of DCU, UL and the ITs would diminish the criticism that university seats are elitist. It is true that twenty years ago only 11% of adults held degrees but now three times that number have higher education qualifications and 48% of 25-34 year olds have some form of third level qualification.

DCU graduates in particular represent a far greater mix of social background than other universities. Out of the top fifty schools sending students to DCU, only seven are fee paying. In addition, the geographic location of DCU on the north side of Dublin has resulted in more students from areas without a tradition of university education attending university.

DCU pioneered the Access Programme, which encourages students who (because of social or economic circumstances) are unlikely to get university places through the CAO system. The Access Programme reserves 5% of first year places to these students and provides them with study and financial support before and during their time at university.v

According to the president of DCU, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, "The State invests heavily in the education system to the extent that many students are subsidised for 17 years of education. It does so because it sees the value of an educated workforce in terms of economic development. There is enormous value in having those in whom the State has invested so heavily participate in the democratic process. Adding the young graduates from DCU, UL and the ITs will energise the Seanad universities' elections."

Under the proposed reform all the colleges will vote in a single 6-seater constituency using PRSTV. This will have the added advantage of eliminating the anomaly whereby some graduates with two degrees receive two votes.