31 May, 2021 | Posted by Cian Fahey

Living in a Van to go to College in Dublin? Not at Portobello Institute

Portobello Institute: Making Education Accessible

Portobello Institute was built on the premise of making education accessible, we have set up our schedules and delivery modes so that no student should ever have to live in a van to attend our college.

Conni Dawson is a 28-year-old student returning to college in Dublin. The Irish Times wrote a story about her last week. You can read the full story here, but in short Conni is a former Harpist who was working in Clare and is relocating to Dublin to study landscape architecture.

Oh and she’s going to live in a van.

“As I was at my parents’ house during Covid, I’m also not eligible for funding for university…if I wasn’t in the van then I just wouldn’t go as I’m not willing to take out a loan to pay for housing for four years…It’s going to be exhausting. I would much rather have a house but it’s just not doable.”

Conni is taking on major risks with her belongings and has to constantly relocate the van since she can’t live in it in the same place for four years. Living in a van means she won’t have her own shower, or even a shared shower, she won’t have a bathroom where she lives and she has no fixed address.

She’s not undertaking this venture because it could be quirky, good fun story that gets turned into a movie 10 years from now. She’s desperate and she’s acting out of desperation because it’s the only option she sees available.

It’s becoming increasingly harder to live in Dublin. It’s becoming increasingly harder to live adjacent to the city. Even those of us living in the city with full-time jobs can still struggle financially. As a student, it can be an insurmountable ask.

But going to college in Dublin is also a great experience. It’s still a magical city that’s bursting with culture and opportunities for personal growth.

So many students want to be in Dublin, they just can’t afford to be.

Portobello Institute recognized this problem years ago.

We reacted by adjusting how we created our schedules and by investing more in the Blended Learning delivery method. Blended Learning is a full-time college experience that only requires the student to be on campus two days per week at most. The remainder of their education can be carried out from remote locations.

This gives our students greater flexibility to live outside of the city and still attend college in Dublin.

We have students who have successfully attended Portobello in Dublin City center while living in Cork, Kilkenny, Belfast and other areas of the country.

Student feedback has informed us that it’s one of the greatest benefits of attending Portobello. Initially, the schedules were built to make it easier for students to live further away from the college and still attend. But then we realized we could take it a step further. There was an added benefit to a more condensed on-site schedule.

By scheduling classes for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for our full-time students, and by limiting the amount of waiting around time in between lectures, it was easier for younger students to get part-time jobs. Unlike their peers at other colleges, our students were always available for hours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays because they had no classes to attend.

They didn’t fall behind by not having classes, they just benefited from a different delivery mode.

Most of our Leaving Cert students want to be in college during the week then have the freedom to get a job at the weekend or enjoy their social lives. Our mature students tend to have responsibilities (full-time jobs or family life) during the week, that means they prefer to be on college during weekends. That is where the Blended approach gives them more opportunities to excel.

These students aren’t suffering by learning in a more flexible environment.

Portobello Institute offers internationally-accredited degrees that project into Level 8 and Level 9 on the national framework. Take our sports department as an example, we offer Level 8 degrees in Sports Therapy, PE & Coaching, Sports Science and Psychology. Whether you graduate through Blended or Full Time, you come out with a degree. The sports department also has postgraduate certificates and Level 9 masters degrees.

All six of the college’s departments offer flexibility in scheduling and delivery mode. Whether you want to study a course in Sports, Early Years, Special Needs Assisting, Facilities Management, Fashion or Travel, you don’t have to live in Dublin to study in Dublin at Portobello.

Student feedback has informed us that Blended Learning is hugely valuable for students regardless of where they live. By cutting out empty modules, modules added to courses just to fatten them up and stretch a three-year course into a four-year course, and by condensing the schedule down so there is less time spent waiting around between classes, students lives are just generally less stressful.

Your college experience should be as difficult as the content on your course is. Anything on top of that shouldn’t exist.

Instead of quitting your job, moving to a more expensive city and trying to find a higher-paying job that fits in around your college course, just stay in your current job and travel in when you need to. If you don’t have a full-time job and you already live in Dublin, then keep your Mondays, Fridays and weekends free by attending Portobello so you have a better social life or more professional options on weekends.

Or you can go live in a van like Conni. But even Conni doesn’t want to do that.

“If I could get something for €300 or €400 a month I would rent, but it’s just not affordable, especially not on student money.”

You can find all six of Portobello’s departments on this page. If you click into the department that interests you most, you’ll be able to then see the available courses. If you’re not sure what you want to do, then you can contact Brandon McLean who is the leader of our Admissions team. Brandon can be called on 01-892-0035 or reached by email at brandon.mclean@portobelloinstitute.com.

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