August 15, 2013

Curtains for traditional third level?

Posted in News · 80 comments ·

Do you remember opening the envelope with your Leaving Cert results? Can you still feel the anxiety, the hopes, the disappointments and then the calculations, totting up points to see if you made the cut?

This morning, close to 60,000 teenagers will receive their Leaving Cert results. The Leaving Cert remains one of the few collective group experiences that most Irish children have. It’s the educational equivalent of national military service.

Underpinning the annual Leaving Cert event and the points race which unfortunately goes with the territory, is the understanding that third level education will give teenagers a head start in the jobs market.

This is a type of social contract. Many thousands of students today will hope that their Leaving Cert results will be a springboard to college and that college itself will be a springboard to a better career.

Up to a point, this pact between students, parents, universities and employers still holds true.

However, this understanding is beginning to fray as the cost of third level education rises and the wages graduates are achieving are falling.

Recent trends in globalisation – including hyper-competition in the global jobs market from Asian students – indicate that the return to education may well be falling for the average student. Remember it is the average student – not the superstars – that third level education is supposed to train and educate. The average student enjoys what is known as the “university experience” – the friends, the networks and the good times. In a world of cheap, sometimes superior online education, the college experience is one of the few things that universities can honestly offer.

The other, of course, is status. The stamp of a degree from such and such a place is still used as a universally recognised quality control mechanism.

Acquiring this degree traditionally propelled these students up the job escalator, giving them a much better chance of a much better job.

Does this still hold? Are most universities still a passport to a better career or is this only the case for the very best ones?

If a third level education no longer helps young adults achieve a better job and a better wage, then the universities have a big problem because education is very expensive.

And it is expensive not just for the students and their families but for the rest of the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Yesterday, this paper published a survey from the Credit Unions of Ireland, offering a glimpse of the financial cost of third level education and the sacrifices that parents are making.

Some 80pc of parents today support their child with college-related costs. This is costing €421 per month on average per child. That’s close to €10,000 before tax. Four out of 10 parents use their savings to fund third level education and a quarter of all parents borrow from their local credit union to fund college.

On average, parents who are using their savings put aside money for eight years – every month – in order to finance their children’s expenses. And remember this is taking place in a country where the State picks up the lion’s share of the tab for fees.

Where there are registration fees, seven out of 10 parents said that the family budgets are squeezed by the increased fees. Half of students eligible for grants didn’t get them on time and, as a result, one-third of families that are supposed to get grants stated they had to sacrifice spending on essential household bills because of the delays.

Now let’s come to the State’s portion.

THE annual cost per student in post-secondary education in Ireland was €12,051 – above the OECD average of €10,500. This is the cost of the universities. Each four-year undergraduate degree costs an average of €48,204 per student.

Taken together with what the parents pay, which according to the Credit Unions is as much as another €40,000 before tax, we are talking about a very large amount per degree. Now look at the return that the graduates are getting for that. Remember the old understanding that the university education gave the students a marked leg-up in the jobs market?

We know youth unemployment is running at unprecedented levels and we know that graduates are emigrating in much greater numbers than non-graduates.

Could it be that the social contract is breaking down?

Could it be that the graduate jobs market is now truly international and the competition never more fierce because of globalisation and the impact of technology bringing opportunities to people in parts of the world that never before had such opportunity?

For example, just consider the online revolution. Today there are two billion people online. In eight years’ time, there will be five billion. This is three billion new minds, new ways of doing things and new ways of looking at the world coming online and competing in the global jobs market.

Now clearly there are huge opportunities for enterprising young people in this online explosion. Selling online is the future for many sectors and collaboration online will change the way most of us do business. However, for the salaryman or average Irish worker with a degree, there are more threats than opportunities.

The numbers tell the story.

If we look at the number of people in recent years who are unemployed but have said that they have never worked before, we see an increase of 97pc from October 2009 to July 2013. In absolute terms, 5,237 said they were unemployed but had never worked before in 2009; by last month this figure had jumped to 10,337 people. While not all of these people are students the vast majority are likely to be unemployed graduates.

Today, youth unemployment (under 25) is running at 30.4pc. Many people argue that things were just as bad in the 1980s when I was in university but that’s not the case. Throughout the 1980s, youth unemployment averaged 22.9pc. If you are young right now, you have 30pc more chance of being unemployed than you would have had in the bleak 1980s.

The days of a degree propelling you into a safe, well-paid job appears to be a thing of the past. This will have enormous implications for the value for money in going to university, particularly if there is an opportunity cost in staying out of the world of work until after your degree. If they want to survive, middle-ranking universities – all of Ireland’s – will need to train their graduates to be more employable.

Or failing that, graduates will have to become more entrepreneurial in the face of both competition and opportunity abroad.

In terms of the likelihood of the above two, I’d bet on the latter rather than the former.

  1. hughsheehy

    There are a couple of different issues mixed up here.

    First is that online education looks likely to make most undergraduate and postgraduate education in Irish universities obsolete very soon.

    Who would want an expensive degree from UCC or UCG if they could get a cheaper and better one from Oxford or MIT or the Karolinska Institute? University education, like most things, is amenable to both economies of scale and improvements of scale. Bigger will be both better and cheaper and Irish universities are unlikely to be winners in this globalized competition.

    The other entirely separate problem is the increasing instability of employment in Ireland and everywhere else. No jobs for life any more. No stability of income. It’s happened in history before but the difference in most European countries now because vastly complex and “progressive” tax systems assume that income is permanent. Mortgage applications and housing markets often assume that income is permanent. And most government jobs still provide permanent income with very little incentive to increase efficiency.

    We’re consciously allowing an invidious apartheid to grow without making any provisions for the uncertainty that will impact most of the workers in society. And that’s a separate problem from the looming irrelevance of Irish university education.

    • hibernian56

      “No jobs for life any more.” Unless you are a University lecturer. Even better if you join one of the “Youth” wings of a political party the world is your oyster. Look at John Mullins, president of Fine Geal Youth one day, CEO of Bord Gais the next, hell you can even get a job running a port authority with no relevant experience.

      The way to go is take any course in university, then join a political party and brown nose your way to the top. Simple.

      Mullins will be replaced by ex-NTR boss Michael McNicholas, who rose through the ranks of the ESB since leaving college in 1982. McNicholas did an evening course in business administration so that underlines the value of the precursor of online learning.

      Mind you McNicholas left a mess behind him in NTR, which to be fair he inherited from Jim Barry, who’s investments on behalf of NTR and shortly after he left to work with another company setting up joint investments with NTR where interesting to say the least.

      This is a potato republic, be sure of it.

      • Gearoid O Dubhain

        Well said.

      • Gearoid O Dubhain

        You cant have a free market University education with a Socialist Staff Employment university system.

      • Deco

        And the award for being most like FF goes to….FG.

        The biggest problem with Ireland public sector is politically connected wasters and clowns becomming the management of such organizations.

        Ironically enough, if the management were sacked, and the employees put in charge, they would lose less money, and be more efficient.

      • Joe R

        Except that Mullins is CEO of Amarenco Solar, not Cork Port. Get your facts right will you?

        What a nasty little attack

        McWilliams why do you tolerate this? This the second time this has been posted on your site.

        I last time I posted to complain about this kind of crap and that was pulled!

        • Joe R

          Two corrections I have to make; it is the third attack on Mullins here but no comment of mine was pulled in relation to it.

          This is really snide behaviour though by Hib 56 making sniping attacks on a named person´s character and work record, which are totally unsupported, from behind an a screen of anonymity.

          Is this to be tolerated here?

          • hibernian56


            Hows that for facts. He’s the chairman of Cork Port with no prior experience.

            How wonderful for him, setting up a new renewable energy company after leading the state gas company which saw the coast of domestic gas triple.

            I wonder will his new company benefit from Carbon Taxes? Makes you think doesn’t it.

            Stop star gazing and read a little, and not from our “media”.

          • hibernian56

            Oh, and it’s not personal. There are so many examples like Mr Mullins, take Bertie, crippled the country then joins a company that deals in forestry.

            What national asset where THEY talking about selling at one stage, thats right Coilte.

            THEY are all the same. I wouldn’t give them a job making tea, so why are they hero worshiped?

            “work record” don’t make me laugh, this is too serious. I see MY country being ruined, raped and sold out so THEY can stuff their back pockets. It makes me angry. Very, very angry.

          • Joe R


            A CEO runs company not the Chairman of the Board.

            CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER. The hint is in the title.

            On July 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm, right here in a previous comment you named him as CEO of Cork port and you described him disparagingly as “a cretin´´ and you said “Take it from me I have had to shake his chubby sweaty hand´´.

            How could that be any more personal?

            You are showing yourself to be nothing but an aggressive coward here.

  2. [...] “Do you remember opening the envelope with your Leaving Cert results? Can you still feel the anxiety, the hopes, the disappointments and then the calculations, totting up points to see if you made the cut? …” (more) [...]

  3. tomahawk

    Why is third level education so expensive?
    Have a look at the salary scales and number of hours worked by staff.
    Works out at about €150-€200/hr.

    • bealoideas

      That is incorrect. I presume you are calculating lecturing hours as the working hours. The reality is the hours spent lecturing is only about a small portion of the work. For instance research is the only way to advance your career and this is a risky and always slow process. Young academics frequently put in 60 hours week after week just to keep afloat. Academics don’t have three months off in the summer. it is spent marking, postgraduate supervision, reviewing papers, writing and editing. All of which is unpaid of course.

      • Doggone

        Nonsense. I work in 3rd level education (also?) and I have never seen so much dossing and tea drinking. Of course there are good workers but, really they are nearly the exception. The sense of entitlement is sickening. I’d bet that if you took an anonymous sample of the surfing habits of the average college office PC you would be horrified at how much of the taxpayers money is frittered away surfing the net. Worse than that is the fact that everyone who reads this knows it is the case but just can’t seem to admit it. Quit spoofing.
        If you think that the recent vast increase in the numbers attending the Universities and Colleges of this country, is entirely attributable to improvements in the second level system and consequently the academic standard of those students, you are delusional. These institutions are perfectly happy to let standards fall to increase the number of ‘Full Time Equivalents’ or FTEs for short. In the real world they are called ‘bums on seats’ and business will do anything to get and keep them there. Universities are no different. Of all of students trotting off college this year about 20% ought to be going, the rest are there to pump another debt bubble and will leave with a damaged liver, perhaps a STD and the equivalent of a mortgage worth of debt but no assets, not even a decent education.

        • bealoideas

          Researchers don’t work on 9-5 schedules so its not comparable to civil servants. the reality is that the only way to get a permanent university job is through publishing research so to only count the hours spent teaching s ‘work’ is plain wrong.

          I work in a research institute in Germany. I am very glad I do as the conditions to publish are far greater then anything at home. As a PhD student 95% of my time is spent on research. I didn’t say the increase in third level attendance is related to second level. It is quite clearly to the recession, and the collapse of the trades etc.

      • tomahawk

        5 minutes ‘research’ finds:
        ‘Lecturers (the most junior academic grade) in Irish universities are paid a salary range of 35,541 – 83,344 Euro (17 increments). McCullough compared the salary scales of Senior Lecturers and Professors at the Universities of Rotterdam, Leeds and UCC, three universities judged to be of equal standing. (Of course it should be pointed out that academic salaries at UCC are identical to academic salaries in the other Irish universities). The following are the salary ranges (starting salary – finishing salary) for Senior Lecturers at Rotterdam, Leeds and UCC respectively: 44,589-69,361 Euros; 53,017-67,160 Euros; 68,197-101,714 Euros – and for Professor: 68,440-120,329 Euros; 63,307-85,075 Euros; 117,276-158,644 Euros. Finally, Irish Associate Professor are paid 99,097-116,386 Euros.’
        (Darragh McCullough,The Farmers Journal, 15th August 2009)

        • bealoideas

          UK universities are notoriously cash starved. A professor of physics in Cambridge often would earn less then a an Irish GP. Despite this lecturer salaries start lower in Ireland then the UK.

  4. Adam Byrne


  5. Hi David,

    This is an argument for the introduction of a fee-paying free-market in University education. If economic return is the only things that matters (I realise you are NOT saying that), why should the state pay at all, especially with a flight-risk at the end of it!

    Here’s a question I’d love an economist to try to answer: what’s the cost of economically restricting access to University education?

    Anyone who things that on-line education will replace brick and mortar Universities needs to understand that the reason Stanford, MIT, Cambridge etc publish so much of this stuff on-line is that they understand the course content has essentially no value, compared to the transformative experience of spending three or four years at one of those institutions.

  6. It is far too easy to assume that on-line education can replace on-site education directly. When I was younger I studied at two bricks and mortars universities. Later on I did an MBA that mixed online with classroom work and now I am studying for a BA through the Open University. For mature students who need little guidance it is quite possible to learn effectively independently provided you have the right kind of materials. Distance learning materials are expensive to produce because they need to be tailored for the medium. They are not comparable to classroom lectures. Watching endless Youtube lectures by university professors is not likely to stimulate the majority of students, especially not younger ones. In physical universities you have the chance to ask questions, do group projects and generally interact and share with other people. The OU tries to replicate this but it really is not the same. In July I went to an OU summer school in Santiago de Compostela for the Spanish course I am doing. I spent a week interacting day and night with other students through Spanish, every student I spoke to said they had learned more on the summer course than in all of the course weeks before. For younger people it really is good to have a guided, physical learning experience above and beyond the life experience of going away to college. The economics might favour distance learning but I still think that traditional universities have a big role to play in education.

  7. Deco

    Today, with many people getting leaving results, there is a fair bit of excitement out there.

    Many of these kids will now have to ponder what to do next. In many cases, they have already being pondering.

    There is a problem with the Irish second level education system, in that expects you to prepare for the make or break exam at the same time as you have to make decisions about your career.

    This in itself is a disaster. As a result there is a problem with dropout rates in first year in university. This nneds to be addressed.

    Number 2.
    There is a chronic problem with unemployment rates for certain courses. And at the same time we have chronic shortages in other courses. Our university sector is not flexible, with respect to providing graduates to the employment market, so that the kids themselves can get employment.

    Not a chance of that being addressed, because that involves reform of the third level sector, and indeed scaling down on some courses that are not that use to the young people themselves.

    Number 3.
    A lot of courses are little more than reading journeys. Therefore if you have kids in second level I would recommend staying away from courses that involve reading English litereature, and dead languages. You can read that in your spare time later. And they do not make you productive in the workplace – therefore you might not get hired as a result.

    Number 4.
    Irish third level is expensive on the taxpayer. Staff costs are way out of whack. they often bear no relationship to quality. It is all fixed scales. Preference might alos need be given to lecturers who have worked in industry. They would be more use to the students afterall.

    Number 5.
    There is a problem in South County Dublin with regards to student accomodation. The best solution to this is to pick a university in a different location.

    Number 6.
    The breweries have far too much of a presence in Irish Third Level. And it is not good for the quality of the graduate output. It is not good for the HSE either. They should be turfed out.

    • It is a serious mistake, to regard the primary function of third-level education as being to turn students in to company employees (nobody needs a degree for that), and to produce research outputs that are directly exploitable by industry.

      • Agreed, especially since education is by its nature backward looking reflecting the need for a stable, understood body of material to be taught while new industrial opportunities are exploited by creative and innovative people who can unearth competitive advantages which have not yet been identified. College education is all about the meta level where you learn how to think, how to apply methodologies, how to work in teams and how to write properly. Those things are useful for industry but also for lots of other walks of life. Having studied both engineering and literature I think that it is a grave error to assume that the latter i something to do in your free time. Analyzing literature is just as exacting (and indeed boring) as many scientific pursuits and assuming that one is better than the other misses the point. Indeed many of the great thinkers of the dead languages like Latin and Greek were as home in philosophy and verse as in the sciences. The classical education may well be undervalued now but that certainly doesn’t mean that it lacks in value in the modern world.

        • Original-Ed

          “that one is better than the other misses the point”
          It’s you who’s missing the point – one is more bankable than the other, not better.

          The classics are an excellent pursuit, they just don’t pay the bills.

          • The classical education doesn’t mean studying the classics, it means having a broad general education like the American Liberal Arts or Science college education. With the basis you can specialize in anything you want.
            I studied Materials Science and Engineering as my first degree and hardly any of my classmates work in that area. There are accountants, many IT specialists and people in all kinds of business functions. In my current work there are people who studied Arts disciplines as well as people who studied Science and Engineering disciplines. Very few studied anything relevant to our industry. I get your point that universities should educate specialists ready to work in industry but the fact is that nobody recruiting cares if somebody has the exact educational background needed. Work experience and life experience count for way more just as long as somebody can be trained. Having a degree often, but not always, means that a person can be trained to work according to a process methodology. If somebody has a degree in the Classics that doesn’t in anyway disadvantage if I am interviewing as long as they can convince me that they can be trained and work in a team. There are so many tools you need to study any discipline these days that you have to have developed certain competencies whatever you studied. To give an example, I was studying an English Language module that covered forensic linguistics, if you can imagine the algorithms and patterning needed to identify suspects based on their language usage from masses of data available in text messages, e-mails etc. you can understand how complex the challenge is for people working in this area, just part of studying English.

          • Eireannach

            Robert Greene, in his new book ‘Mastery’, reminds readers that when they were young, say 13-18, they were passionate about some subject or skill or aspect of life.

            This early passion he refers to as your ‘inclination’, which is as personal to you, dear reader, as your fingerprint or your DNA.

            The problem is that not only our education system, but even our parents fail to notice or encourage, or both, a child’s inclination.

            People should focus on developing their inclination for the rest of their lives, until, following the 10,000 rule, they attain mastery in this domain.

            It could be a musical instrument, a sport, a handcraft, astronomy, dinosaurs, a foreign language, vipassana meditation, making dolls or model trains – it doesn’t matter. If you develop it to mastery, you will make a a career out of it.

            What is more, in a world starved of autheticity and passion you, dear reader, by following your inclination, trusting in the latent genius or muse encouraging you to develop in this way, and you enter apprenticeship to a master of your inclination, you will lead a full and happy life, earn money, and never lose that early muse.

            If we betray our early inclinations, and follow some other path because we calculate we’d be better off being pragmatic rather than passionately engaged, then no muse will befriend, and later in life we will regret it.

            Or, to simplify, as Steve Jobs always said ‘do what you love. That way you can work and work at it. If you don’t deeply love it, you’ll give up’.

            Indentify your deepest inclination and remain faithful to it.

            A muse will befriend you, you will be inspired.

            You WILL succeed if you are inspired, in the long arc of time.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Hi eireannac,

            Thank you for posting such a superb piece.

      • Deco

        The mistake in the Irish university system is that we are not doing that.

        And we are not producing original thinkers either. We have uniersities where the Arts faculty is often the largest, and were nobody can get employment after their BA for three years.

        Ireland’s graduate employment statistics are becomming a problem again. Having cohorts of people reading English litreature for the wnter months, is not getting us anywhere. Many of them have no interest in what they are doing anyway, and are simply going through the motions. Is it any wonder that “Arts week” is the biggest piss up event of most college calendars. And it has nothing to do with Arts either.

        If people want to study these in their private time, or in evening classes, with their own money then fine. A very small percentage of the arts graduate output end up in teaching. If people switched the television off, and took the time to read instead they would get the same benefit. And they would at least be better prepared for the labour market.

        This is a sacred cow in the entire third level system. I think that it should be scaled back. And more resources spent on vocational education. Likewise in the RTC sector, an appraisal needs to take place to see what course are actually getting people employement, and which courses are wasting people’s time.

        Courses with no employment have lower points, and more serious morale problems. But the Irish Third level sector is very reluctant to flexibly adapt to the needs ot the students.

        • I understand where you are coming from but I think that you are being very harsh on Arts disciplines. Studying English Literature properly demands a lot more than reading. I did a Second Year OU course in Lit. and the workload was as high as when I studied Engineering. Not only did you have to read the works themselves (and often more than once) but you had to read the academic analysis provided by the university and often supporting academic papers from journals. For assignments we were writing three or four thousand words of analysis that had to be supported by references at every juncture so that meant reading up to 20 academic papers per assignment. Writing a decent paper took 20 or 30 hours. It’s similar work and it’s not fun at all (Stephen Fry supposedly said that the best way to kill a love of literature is to study it).
          You may well be right that there are thousands of people killing time studying Arts disciplines but that does not mean that people who excelled at studying English or Classics or Scandinavian Studies are doomed. If they have a good degree, have a CV with work experience, voluntary activities and enough to prove that they can fit into a work environment then most employers don’t care what they studied. To work in IT you might need to do a one year postgrad course like most of the Arts graduates I knew working in consultancies when I was younger. If you have a passion for something you shoulkd study that rather than going for something that you think is economically useful. Life is too short to waste talent and energy on becoming a drone and you can be 100% certain that an uninspired drone is dispensable in a globalizing economy whereas somebody who can adapt an move with the changing business landscape will survive whatever happens. I see it in my current employment, all of the ‘hard’ skills are getting outsourced, the most important skills in a global company are social and communication skills. Ironically many Arts graduates have a head start in those areas even if Science/Engineering graduates might seem to have all of the trump cards.

  8. Adelaide

    “In terms of the likelihood of the above two, I’d bet on the latter rather than the former.”

    Agree. Youngsters will have to create their own stake in society as the ‘social contract’ no longer applies to them, they are fodder in the eyes of their elders. There is a palpable disregard for their future, example, a previous large company I contracted for had a respected 6-month graduate program, now they’ve prefixed it with Jobbridge 9-month internships so in total a prospective youngster will have to fund themselves through a 15-month 40hr-week intership/probation period, that’s a YEAR+HALF!, with no guarantee of a job offer of pitiful low pay entry level, as some of the unfortunate ones found out on their last week. This shameful exploitation is one more proof that at heart the Irish have no regard for their compatriots. That’s why there have been no mass demonstrations, they despise each other. Discuss.

    • Original-Ed

      In the present climate, companies just don’t have the money to carry non productive trainees.
      Globalisation has thrown the cat among the pigeons – nothing will ever be secure again as disruption is now the new norm.

    • michaelcoughlan

      Best post i have read in a long long time.

  9. For all the talk of education there is little regard for the one thing crucial to the survival of everyone.

    How many have any information on basic finance? How many know how to balance a cheque book? How many will know how the financial system operates. How many have an understanding of money, what it is, what is good money, what is bad money.?

    How many can define what money actually is? Yet that is what they will be working for. Looks like most will be on a fools quest despite or perhaps because of their education.

    How many will know that the monetary system is a Ponzi scheme and designed to indebt and enslave?

    How many will know who controls the money system and thus everything they are doing?

    That is why the economy is bankrupted. That is why there is there endless discussion on jobs and careers. That is why there is a lack of opportunity.

    There is a mention above of the classic education where science and philosophy, both, were the purview of the great minds of the past. They also were able to define the necessary components of money and understood its function in society. The one major component of education missing today.

    • michaelcoughlan

      Brilliant Tony. They are not told how to manage money, placement of capital, or that their spending should be LESS than their income.

      Employers also think that the value added by the employee is for their exclusive benefit.

      McWilliams is right the social contract was ripped up.

      • The truth is that I am having trouble educating my own children on this crucial subject.

        They have inherited substantial funds and although not lacking in intellect fail to appreciate the dangers of their current investment policies. In bonds and stocks!!

        • michaelcoughlan

          Jesus Christ above in heaven! Are they Americans?

          Tell them to read the book by “Jim rogers “gift to my children”

          • Not exactly, last time I checked they were Canadian!!!
            I’ll try Jim Rogers, thanks

          • michaelcoughlan

            Sorry Tony,

            I thought from your posts you spent your working life in America. I wasn’t sure if you were born in Ireland and worked abroad or were raised in US/Canad etc.

            The reason I asked about the nationality of your kids is because if it’s US bonds and equities they are investing in then god help them.

          • Born and raised in England. Vilified and bullied because I am in possession of an Irish name. Vilified and scorned and called a liar by both adults and other kids when I tried to talk about the Irish Famine, which was denied as a truth by most in England at that time.

            To defend myself I became more Irish than some of you natives. Became an Irish boxing champion through a set of coincidental happenings and then also a UK ABA champ and then immigrated to Canada. Canada advertised as The Land of Opportunity.

            Having no paper qualifications, trade or third level education I snuck in as a farmer. Farming turned out to be a peripheral occupation as I made my living from general Labour, agricultural contracting and then real estate sales for 32 years.

            All my tertiary education was work related and paid for as I went. A diverse selection it is with some physical attendance at university campus and a lot through the mail and some online. Includes, common law, contract law, finance, mathematics of finance, many statue laws relating to Real Estate, Courses on motivation, phycology, ethics, philosophy, sales, etc.

            All resulting in no real paper credits, except a bank of educational credits that were required to maintain my license in good standing.

            I have abandoned that sphere of my life and am now exploring opportunities in agriculture. So I have lived on a farm cooperative for 4 months and leave at the end of the month for another farm. This has opened my eyes as to how a complete sub culture lives and exists.

            I now know what a Woofer is and also see the SOIL web site for farm apprentices.


            I move to Duck Creek Farm for a couple of months. I am now a farm apprentice!!!!

            I am only 70 and have another lifetime of endevours before me.

            At age 38 I was ready to retire, and enough savings to do so, but I ran full tilt into a recession a crooked lawyer and a divorce to get wiped out.

            I started again, married, raised a family and then was about to retire at 60 when again I hit the fan . Not wiped out but severely curtailed by recession and family changes.

            My kids are set up, all with post secondary education, all with substantial assets, a good kick off that I never had.

            I am now retired the last 5 years and hit hard by the latest downturn but now bouncing back. I will, as I have said before, get that piece of land and prepare myself in the meantime VISITING FARMS IN BUSINESS TO LEARN FROM THEM.

            So a career is what you make it or what happens to you. I have lived well, can not be called rich but I am not broke either. I am healthy and vocal and opinionated and I listen and learn.

            I have one more good kick at the can and this time I have no responsibilities to anyone but myself. My personal responsibilities are discharged. Now I can work for no pay if I wish, I can be charitable or not as I wish, I can help, assist and coach others if they are receptive.

            I have constraints but if I live within my means I am a free man.

            What has this got to do with the current theme.

            This. Go out and follow your dream, do what you want in life and not what others expect of you. Do not be hide bound by convention. Have the courage of your convictions. Remember success is never attained but is just part of the road in the direction you wish to travel. Live within your means whatever they are.
            Be a soldier of your own fortune.

            Interestingly David, himself, is a good example of this. That one reason why although I often disagree with David I have a great deal of respect for him.

          • Adam Byrne

            Interesting stuff Tony, thanks.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Good soliloquy.

          • Adam/Michael

            Sometimes it just pops out and leaves me exposed to the world. Sometimes used against me but mostly results in better understanding with others.
            Thanks for comments.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Exposing yourself to the world Tony takes gut, courage and character. No one else on the board has demonstrated this more than you. You don’t need the APPROVAL of ANYONE. Of the many reasons why our life has been a huge success one of the most important is that all of the trials you endured allowed you to pass onto your kids that wisdom and according to your previous posts they are now very well to do. That wouldn’t have happened unless you were so brave in the first instance.

            Take care.

            By the way Tony I am after discovering in the last week a security (share) which has an underlying investment in gold, gold mining companies, and natural resources which also pays a massive dividend on a MONTHLY basis. Much superior investment than straight gold or silver. Email me at for the details.

      • Hi Tony

        Greetings from Sarajevo. If you get a chance try to get here someday. I couldn’t agree more with you about life, what its all about and how it can be lived!



        • Adam Byrne

          It was a great post by Tony. Brilliant advice and example for any man. I just read it again and saved it for posterity.

          • Hi Adam

            Easier to say than live I am afraid but the idea is there and the goal to aim at.

            Wayne Gretsky, the worlds greatest hockey player made a couple of insightful comments, when asked what made him successful.

            ” I always skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.”

            When asked how he scored so many points and goals, he said something along the lines of ” I aim at the net”.

  10. 5Fingers

    We should learn about this or that or whatever. Be it money science economics politics engineering you name it. Should should should and should.

    We are forced to super optimise. Result is lower need for people for same level of output.

    We have super specialisation yet no real crosstalk to allow real interdisciplinary learning. It is a world of silos and yet problems are universal and no one knows how to really link up with all our tech in a way that is useful.

    Maybe economics is the interdisciplinary glue we need. But it all waffles mostly about how it can solely be fixed with money strategies. We now know that is only a partial picture.

    My fear is we lose the ability to properly relate to one another having spent so much time gaming, being online and never really eyeballing. Is that not what university is really about?

    Skills are easy if you have the talent. Working with people… Now that is another matter. That is what people need to learn as soon as they can.

    • It is important for people to understand the nature of the money they are being forced to use. Only one in 100,000 do, maybe one in a million.

      Once this is understood then the solution to the economic morass becomes crystal clear.

      • michaelcoughlan

        Hi Tony,

        I really admire your commitment to finding a solution and I myself was in that boat up to a year ago. My commitment now is limited to my family friends and people of like mind. You will only lose you enthusiasm trying to enlighten someone too lazy or indifferent to make a change in his own life never mind the world. Further more your talents and energies will be dissipated and mis directed. Concentrate your efforts on the faithfull and they will become the agents if Change and leadership for the lazy and indifferent to follow as the dollar dies a death.

      • michaelcoughlan

        Spot on Tony. Just in case people are wondering:

        “Money is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given socio-economic context or country.[1][2][3] The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally in the past, a standard of deferred payment.[4][5] Any kind of object or secure verifiable record that fulfills these functions can be considered money”


        And REMEMBER money IS NOT the same thing as value:

        • michaelcoughlan

          Most importantly from above:

          “Any kind of object or secure verifiable record that fulfills these functions can be considered money”

          hence gold, silver et al.

          Cattle were used as money in Brian Boru’s time. Salt at other times in other parts of the world.

          • Abraham was reportedly rich in kine and shekels when he left UR.
            Lots of cattle and bags of silver.

            Grain was money in Egypt when Joseph said to save in the good years and use in the bad years. Full silos of grain made Egypt the local super power of old.
            All others had to pay for grain or starve. They paid for it with their land, assets and then their freedom.

            Sort of like today in a way.

      • 5Fingers

        Money is everything ( mostly so ) as far as you are concerned. I simply say it is not. Indeed I think it is not particularly important. MichaelC says you should only concentrate efforts on “the faithful”. In other words you need to cultivate your own echo chamber. I sincerely hope you think twice about this.

        I believe we need universities for all. It has nothing to do with getting a job. It is about serious thinking. Arts holds the key. When a robot can replace a job what does it really say about how we really see people. This is the sickness I see needs serious discussion.

        • “”Money is everything ( mostly so ) as far as you are concerned. I simply say it is not.”"

          Firstly the initial sentence is your opinion of your assessment of me. The second sentence is your opinion period. Fair enough.I think both are incorrect.

          I do not say money is everything and the diversity of my postings goes a little way to showing that.

          However I have learned the substance and style of the money we use and how it is constituted and how it works and I can say, IMHO, of course that it affects everything we do. It is designed to impoverish and to pauperize the users. That is a major problem that needs to be addressed before any other problems can be solved. Can you refute that statement with any evidence to the contrary?

          All problems from economic to societal. It is the helping hand of the two and a half wage earner society we have become. It is the cause of the breakdown in age old values and the destruction of the function state and family. How can one state it is not important.

          “Indeed I think it is not particularly important.”"

          MichaelC says you should only concentrate efforts on “the faithful”. In other words you need to cultivate your own echo chamber. I sincerely hope you think twice about this.

          I have thought long and hard about that. All my life I have been shot down by others in positions of power and authority. Many times I have a contrary position to consensus and been proven correct. Other times I have observed what others had not. Mostly I lacked the confidence to express those differences as I thought I must be in error. What had I missed or not understood?

          It is only later in life I have dared to stand defiantly and stick to a thought out position. I have spent 100′s of hours studying the root causes of our dilemma. Little by little the light bulbs switched on.

          One might say this was an online education as I search for answers to questions. If one has not studied these things then indeed all one can offer is opinion in disagreement. However I would like to see reasoning and facts that will prove me wrong.

          At the moment I have the history and the facts to back my statements and nothing presented to cause me to reconsider. So there is the challenge. Show me where I am wrong.

          There is no doubt that we need to be rid of the debt based fiat money credit Ponzi scheme that currently constitutes our monetary system.

          “I believe we need universities for all. It has nothing to do with getting a job. It is about serious thinking. Arts holds the key.”

          I am not sure that art holds the key, but I am in full agreement that we need to open our minds to a full discussion of all things. some will morph as specialists in various disciplines and they will attract the students.

          How the Irish Saved Civilization is a wonderful book. Thomas Cahill is the Author. It will lift the soul of every Irish person perusing it’s pages. The Irish monasteries were the universities of old.

          When a robot can replace a job what does it really say about how we really see people. This is the sickness I see needs serious discussion.

          A robot properly managed will allow humanity the time to enjoy the arts and time to learn from one another; provide abundance for all.

          • “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” … Marcus Aurelius

          • Today, both U.S. stocks and bonds are in FREEFALL – as they should be, given some of the worst fundamentals, and overpriced valuations, of our lifetimes.

            The impact of falling equities on consumer spending and corporate planning is substantial, but inconsequential compared to that of falling bonds – as the ENTIRE WORLD is addicted to ultra-low rates. If the Fed’s “QE” policies – be they QE 4, 5, or “infinity” – fail to push rates back down, I would put the odds of a 2008-like, GLOBAL crisis commencing within six months at greater than 50%. Worse yet, if the worldwide “bond vigilantes” start to dump Treasuries en masse – i.e., anticipating an end to the five-year game of “financial musical chairs” – I’d put those odds closer to 90%.

            Today, I read not one, but two articles describing EXACTLY the type of U.S. market exodus I just described; first, regarding U.S. financial assets in general; and secondly, the Treasury market specifically. Treasury yields are the “linchpin” of the ENTIRE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM; and thus, if they go, EVERYTHING goes.

            Andy Hoffman

          • Everything in this theme is about money. The cost of this and that. The evidence of stagflation as stated by rising fees and falling incomes.

            No thought to address the root causes of this affliction but only more observation and band aids on the sores.

            When are we going to have an examination of money itself and our current banking system.

            Where is the examination and thinking about this. Nowhere yet. Man the lifeboats. Ships going down and the band plays on. Have you got a life jacket and lifeboat.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Hi tony,

            ““The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” … Marcus Aurelius”

            This is exactly what I meant by preaching to the faithful. If people go with the majority consensus now they are doomed. The faithful like you etc. are indeed in the minority but if you look at the bible its replete with stories of how the righteous in the minority were saved when all about the wicked were destroyed mostly by their own wayward actions!

            The last thing any of us want is for to find ouselves in the ranks of the majority blind and insane.

          • 5Fingers

            I am sorry Tony but based on your comments on this blog you are fixated on money. Whether it is evil CB bankers, QE, Gold and your life it is all about money, pursuit of it and how you have set yourself up and those closest to you with money against the “terrible odds” of being Irish named and poor start and so on with loads of historical confirmation biased bumph. I have no problem with any of this at all. But it is a money centric narrative based on the idea of independence from dependence by having lots of it. Fair enough. Let’s face it though, you made your money on property…and to belittle the very system that allowed your business to exist makes no sense.

            Also, I really do not care if you disagree with my opinion that money is not as important as you think it is. Unlike you, I do not believe money is the genesis of anything. It certainly is a lithmus test – nothing more.

            The sad fact is that we have suddenly (last few years) reached a stage of tech development where most work is automatable. We simply do not need average people. No amount of money will solve this and there is a crisis emerging that needs addressing and the focus on money is diverting and pointless. 20-30% of youth unemployed. Money is not the issue. We simply do not need these people. The view of university as job maker was a 20th cent construct. This does need to change. The idea of JOB is what is under threat. Wake up.

          • I care about money to the extent I have 3 square meals a day, a warm place to be and some pleasant company. After that it is surplus.

            I care more about the fact that the monetary system is hijacked by vested interests. They have created a debt based Ponzi scheme designed to rob, pillage and pauperize every last person on earth. It is now overloaded with debt and accumulated interest to the point it about to collapse.

            Some do not believe that. so be it.

            The monetary expansion is the inflation that enriches the instigators and deprives the general worker. The rich get richer, the poor become destitute

            Some do not care about that, so be it.

            An examination of the current fiat, paper, debt based currency scam will reveal that the above is true.
            Some refuse to look.

            So be it.

        • michaelcoughlan

          Hi 5fingers,

          I don’t mind robust replies to posts but “MichaelC says you should only concentrate efforts on “the faithful” is quoting me out of context to the entire post containing that one line.

  11. CorkPlasticPaddy

    Look, the problem with Second Level education in this country is that it doesn’t give students a chance to gain any kind of ‘Life Skills. All it basically is, is that it’s a method of getting students to pass exams and to build up points to go on to Third Level education. Then after those same students have gone through a 3 or four year degree course they come out into the world armed with a piece of paper called a degree in whatever and then if they do happen to end up in employment they think that ‘piece of paper’ will work miracles. That is just total crap! There is something very important missing in the aforementioned statement and that is experience. Theory is all well and good, but without practical experience it means absolutely nothing! I’ve seen it for myself when I was working. They’d walk down corridors wearing suits and hard hats and they think they’re the ‘bees knees and the goats ankles’, but when it came down to practicalities they simply hadn’t a clue!! Second and Third level education should be geared up towards dealing with life and what it can throw up, but unfortunately, it doesn’t and that is what’s completely wrong with Second and Third level education systems in this country.

  12. Paul Divers

    It depends what subject(s) you take.
    Eight out of 10 IT companies in Ireland say they plan to recruit within the next three months.

    Says that 51% of companies find it difficult to find employees with the necessary skills.

    Number of IT vacancies 4,000. According to an EU study, the EU labour market could face an excess demand of 384,000 IT professionals by 2015.

    Irish digital IT sector is growing – with almost 730 Irish owned digital technology companies employing over 10,000 people and contributing €1.8 billion to the economy.

    Director of the Irish Software Association Paul Sweetman says many government and industry initiatives have been put in place to help the sector.

    • paddythepig

      Am sure you know this already, but just in case, are recruiting up the road from you.

    • Adelaide

      A Poll of Intentions
      A Survey Of Predictions
      All Media-spouted polls/surveys are sugar-coated puffery.

      I work in the IT sector, and each one of the bullet points you mention should be read with a spoon of salt. From what I’m experiencing on the ground the opposite is true. Expect big job layoff announcements in this final quarter or first quarter ’14.

      • Paul Divers

        I took it with a heaped tablespoon Adelaide.

        I posted it to hear from people like yourself who are in the trenches.

    • michaelcoughlan


      “Says that 51% of companies find it difficult to find employees with the necessary skills”

      They ALL say that. Yet non of them will take the time to train someone up. Accountants in charge you see. And we know what happened in fail eireann, the banks, the regulators office, the auditing companies when the chartered accountants were put in charge!

      • Paul Divers

        I tested this assumption about a month ago by applying for several Java programming jobs and heard nothing. I have a 2.1 degree in programming and can write Java code in my sleep

  13. Paul Divers

    Two Irish success stories
    Irish astronomer helps measure black hole magnetic field for first time

    Irish brothers lead way as tech firm spreads its wings

  14. Not only is it curtains for the third level student.

    As Andy Hoffman says

    Sadly, this END GAME is already set in stone; and thus, will occur no matter how many games Washington and Wall Street play. It’s just a matter of time; and when it does, you sure as hell better have your PHYSICAL gold and silver insurance in place – as it just may save you and your family’s lives.

  15. They should teach those students not to believe any government produced statistics. All are manipulated.

    * No Economic Recovery Here
    * Industrial Production on Brink of Showing Formal New Recession
    * For Second Month, Rising Retail Sales Reflected Rising Prices,
    Not Rising Consumer Demand
    * Real Average Weekly Earnings Fell for Third Month and Year-to-Year
    * July Year-to-Year Inflation: 2.0% (CPI-U), 2.0% (CPI-W), 9.6% (ShadowStats)

    - John Williams,, August 15 2013

  16. Paul Divers

    Why Ireland should focus on it’s manufacturing base and introduce German style apprenticeships

  17. Paul Divers

    Gene Kerrigan:

    “Turn on TV3 and the usual pundits are telling us that social welfare deters people from taking jobs. Hundreds of thousands of people (people who pre-2008 took every job going – full-time, part-time, minimum wage, whatever) are now, it appears, refusing to take hundreds of thousands of jobs. And the jobs, apparently, remain unfilled.”

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