Autumn Conferrings 2006
Devere Hall, Áras na Mac Léinn, UCC, 14 MFómh 2006
Mr. Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament (12.30pm)
I want to thank the President of University College Cork, Professor Wrixon, for the invitation and the honour which I have to address you on this most special of days. It is particularly pleasing for me to be able to speak to such a large and impressive group of graduates, especially as you graduate with a degree in Arts. Let me congratulate each and every one of you on your accomplishment. I wish you well in what lies ahead. It is a day for each of you to feel a sense of pride founded on the successful completion of your studies. It is a day to share with your family and friends. Enjoy it.
OUR GREATEST NATIONAL ASSET?.
Ireland has come a long way in recent decades.We all have emigrated from the past, the many who left our shores and those who stayed.Our economy and our society have opened up.This is evident in every aspect of our lives and our work.We have left behind isolation and stagnation and have embraced openness and connection as the foundation of our prosperity. Economically we have moved from the insular through the international to the global at extraordinary speed.We have moved from a depressing dependency to a vibrant and intelligent interdependence.
We live in the age of the globalised knowledge based society where creating and exploiting knowledge increasingly will be the engine for future wealth generation.
Global competitiveness no longer simply turns on trade in goods and services or flows in investment.
Its key determinant will be the stock and flow of people and their creative skills. Our universities are our front line. Our graduates such as you are our richest national resource.
A 2004 study of fourteen European States and the USA entitled ?Europe in the Creative Age? concluded : ?that the winners in the global creative economy will be those nations that are best able to attract, retain and develop creative talent and harness their creative assets and capabilities?.
Ireland starts with the comparative demographic advantage of being relatively young which can be added to through a policy of tolerant and enlightened self interest open to the skills of others, the non Irish, to add to our stock of creativity. We would do ourselves a disservice to close our doors to outside skills and capacities.
The creative class is not the exclusive preserve of scientists and engineers alone but also includes those who deal with creative conceptual tasks such as architects, key managers, directors, producers, artists, musicians and so on.
These comprise more than one in four of the labour force in seven of the fourteen States surveyed and in Ireland?s case, among others, they outnumber the number of blue collar workers in the economy.
In the past decade Ireland has benefited from the return of up to 200,000 emigrants and their skills, from the steady inflow of migrants and from general up-skilling through education and training of our own population. I was in primary and secondary school in the 1960s. Then we learned at school as regards natural resources that Ireland was not rich in endowments. Then our people as a resource did not count. Back in 1964 18,000 students were enrolled in higher education. This has grown to 137,000 students in the current academic year, an increase of 760%.
In its landmark report, ?Investment in Education?, published in 1965, the OECD commented that up to 53% of pupils left school at or before the age of 13.Today 57% go on to higher education and this continues to show a steady rise. Fourth level postgraduate qualifications increasingly are being pursued with for example the number of PhDs growing by almost two thirds in the last intercensal period.
Education is a sine qua non in the creative economy and an indispensable requirement for success.It is one of our key national assets.
How well it is developed will decide our success in what I believe is our real national challenge, namely having caught up how to stay ahead in the global race to the top.
It is a pleasure as an Arts graduate to be among my own. It is a foundation that has served me well. May it be so for you and may you enjoy health and success in all your days to come. My congratulations to you and to your family and friends who have supported you. Well done.