Saving urban communities - Build a new student town

One of our great achievements is that third-level education is the norm rather than the exception.

We have the highest rate of third-level participation in Europe and even if you qualify that with caveat after caveat it is a game-changing advance to be celebrated.

This success, like many others, provokes unintended consequences, one of which is the radical change in character imposed on communities living near third-level institutions.

Many of these, especially in Cork City’s western suburbs, face a level of displacement that Cllr John Buttimer has rightly described as a kind of “ethnic cleansing”.

Cork has a student population of around 40,000. UCC has recognised this, and has earmarked €64m for student accommodation.

Much of this seems as if it will be piecemeal, scattered across communities already bearing the brunt of living in a student dormitory.

The urgent need is a factor — but so too is the absence of planning on the grand scale required. Not only does the need for student accommodation hollow out mature communities, it contributes to the housing crisis.

Worst of all, it is not as if this situation was not anticipated.

This not UCC’s or CIT’s problem but rather a problem for nearly any city happy to host third-level institutions. A radical, once-in-a-lifetime solution is required.

How about a new student town west of the city with world-class public transport links?

Something like this will be needed eventually, so why not get ahead of the game — for once.


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