NUI Maynooth is to axe the ‘First Arts’ programme offered at the university’s Kilkenny campus in the grounds of St Kieran’s College, the Kilkenny People has learned.
Staff of the local campus were shocked when they were informed of the decision to wind up the programme, in which students attend arts modules in Kilkenny for their first year. This year’s cohort of third-level students will be the last to study the first year of their Arts degree in the Marble City as a result.
When contacted by the Kilkenny People, NUI Maynooth cited insufficient student numbers as the reason for ending the programme - although this year’s group was the largest to date, according to the university’s Kilkenny campus website.
A screenshot from the campus website
There is now some concern for the university’s presence here going forward. A spokesperson for NUI Maynooth has said there has been no decision yet about the overall future of its Kilkenny outreach campus following the decision.
The university has a storied legacy in the Marble City for two decades now. Based in the grounds of St Kieran’s College, it has offered undergraduate and postgraduate courses since 1997, and has formed a strong relationship with the people of Kilkenny and its institutions.
There was excitement in 2013 when NUI Maynooth rolled out the new scheme allowing students to study the first year of their Arts degree at its campus here. It particularly appealed to students in the area who couldn’t access third-level education for reasons of travel or accommodation expense elsewhere. There are various testimonies from students/former students attesting to the benefits of the programme.
This year will be the last of that programme. It will come as another bitter blow for a county where third-level education provision is already sorely lacking.
The South East Economic Monitor report has highlighted the region's higher education capacity deficiency, and the knock-on effects it has had on counties like Kilkenny where the vast majority of people must leave to pursue their studies.
Full statement from NUI Maynooth:
“Following the conclusion of the 2017-18 academic year, the University will no longer offer the First Arts course on the Kilkenny campus. The programme, in which students attend arts modules in Kilkenny for first year only before transferring to Maynooth to finish their course, has not attracted sufficient students to be viable and to provide the kind of first year student experience we would like.
“The University has yet to make a decision about the overall future of its Kilkenny outreach campus. It is reviewing whether there are other courses that could be viable options in Kilkenny.”