GRADUATION day is “not a point of arrival but a point of departure”, said Mr Justice John Murray, the chancellor of the University of Limerick to some 2,600 graduates last week.
Quoting the bard Thomas Moore he said today’s graduates now find themselves on a narrow, seemingly unbridgeable stretch between “two boundless seas, the past, the future, two eternities.”
“The challenges of the future do not come all at once they come in waves and, like the sea, in a perpetual succession of waves. What counts is how we prepare ourselves, each of us individually, to meet those challenges throughout our lives,” he said.
As in previous addresses in the University Concert Hall, UL president, professor Don Barry told graduates not to worry, that this bleak economic landscape will not last, cannot last. Let’s hope he’s right, and that at some future ceremony the time will have come for a red line can be drawn through that part of the address.
But the message was clear - don’t base your hopeful aspirations on the current negative circumstances, for the plates of employment are shifting all the time.
“So don’t lay the foundations of your future on it. Don’t settle because you think you have to. You have a long career ahead of you, a long way to go, so think big,” he urged.
The addition of new courses in UL - this year saw the first graduates in BSc in Energy - is proof that the university and its students are keen to tap into heretofore unexplored areas of the labour market, and away from once over-subscribed courses which have now seen a major drop in CAO points, such as architecture and construction.
However, while the gap between education and employment might seem a giant leap in the current climate, UL is assuring its graduates - and no doubt future graduates -that they won’t fall between the cracks, or have to fly abroad in order to achieve gainful employment. A survey of UL’s 2012 graduates showed 85% are either employed or pursuing further study. Furthermore, UL’s graduate employment rate for 2012 figure for primary degree-holders is now 15% higher than the Higher Education Authority’s most recently-available national average figure which is 48% for 2011. Over 80% of last year’s PhD graduates are also currently in employment.
“Year on year our graduate employment figures are increasing as a reflection of our continually-evolving programmes that offer our talented students the kind of educational and research experiences that will best prepare them for their careers,” he said.
The ‘First Destinations’ survey also found that the number of UL graduates seeking employment is now at 8%, a figure which is considerably lower than the official labour market unemployment figure, which is currently in excess of 13.5%.
In recent years the Mid-West was the most popular region of employment and accounts for 33% of jobs, followed by Dublin at 30%. The most popular overseas location was the UK at 42%, followed by North America at 15%. The percentage of UL graduates finding employment in Ireland and overseas remains consistent, at 50% and 13% respectively.
It was a week of highs, with a few emotional moments for some students, with a number of familiar faces also walking away with their scrolls. The former international rugby player Jerry Flannery was conferred with a Masters of Science in Sports Performance, though he was not present to accept this in person due to work commitments.
On Friday, Celia Larkin, the former partner of ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, was awarded her BA in politics.
Four students who received scholarships from multi-millionaire philanthropist JP McManus also received their parchments - and proved why they were so deserving of their scholarships in the first place.
Anton Salduskin, who is originally from Russia and who moved to Limerick with his family when he has nine years old, graduated with a Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering. He was also awarded the Gold Medal, after coming joint first in the overall class of 2013 - out of 2636 students - based upon his impressive grades. He shared this honour with Padraic Slattery, who was also a recipient of a scholarship from one of the JP McManus funds.
High flying Anton is going on to study for a Masters in Aircraft Dynamics in Cranfield University in the UK.
Few things are certain in the current climate, but one thing is - JP certainly knows a winner when he sees one.
Photographs in slideshow by Dave Gaynor and Press 22