National News in Brief

20 per cent of University Graduates Struggle with Basic Maths and Literacy TasksA report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has found that about one in five graduates have difficulty with basic maths and literacy.Graduates can manage simple maths or literacy tasks, such as reading medicine bottle instructions, but struggle with more difficult or complex tasks. One in six students fail to progress from first to second year in college, and these rates are much higher in low-point courses, indicating that they may enter into courses without the adequate skills to fully prosper from it.Irish university students have some of the lowest literacy and numeracy skills in the developed world, ranking 18th out of 23 countries in literacy and 21st in numeracy. It has been suggested that this may be down to students without the basic maths and literacy skills being pushed into university, rather than alternative courses that better suit their needs. This report comes in the same week as the launch of the ten year National Skills Strategy, which aims to create 50,000 apprenticeships as part of a plan to give more alternatives for education to school-leavers.[br]Third-Level Institutions Face Uncertain Financial Future A number of third level institutions in Ireland have declared that they have financial difficulties. A combination of substantial decreases in State funding combined with Ireland’s increasing student population, alongside the recession since 2008 is believed to have created the complications.Dundalk IT, Waterford IT, Letterkenny IT, Galway-Mayo IT and the NCAD have been hit the worst since State funding was cut by half. When the funding was short, many universities struggled to gather the resources to continue to deliver a high-quality education. This has led to financial penalties for those who started preforming poorly.The largest colleges in Ireland, in particular UCD, Trinity and UCC are managing to survive due to financial deals secured with academia and major industry players. UCD gets €84m annually out of these deals, making it the largest recipient of this sort of funding in Ireland. Many ITs and other third-level institutions simply cannot compete to earn these multi-million euro contracts and continue to face financial uncertainty. The HEA (Higher Education Authority) has said that for now, there are no fears of institutional collapse or closure, but more needs to be done to prevent them getting further into debt.[br]“Cybersafe” Course Launched in Ulster UniversityA new adult education course has recently been launched by Ulster University and the PSNI in response to a marked increase in “cyber crime”. The five, two-hour long sessions will teach people how to limit what they share online, how to download and use anti-virus software and other advice on how to protect themselves online.Douglas Grant, Detective Chief Inspector with the PSNI’s Cyber Crime Centre has said: “We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other however we also need to be aware that there are risks associated with our online activity.”There will be real-life case studies on what to avoid and tips and tricks on ways to protect their personal data when browsing online, be it credit cards or personal information about themselves or others. It has been welcomed by the Academic Programme Leader of Ulster University Ursula Donnelly, who says: “By partnering with the PSNI Cyber Crime Centre… we have been able to develop a unique course which combines strategies to stay safe online with real life case studies of cyber crimes which have happened in Northern Ireland".