Address to Entrance Exhibitioners 2018

Dining Hall, College

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 19th, 20th & 21st November 2018

Good evening, and welcome all.

I thank the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dr Kevin Mitchell, for outlining so eloquently what being an entrance exhibitioner means. Trinity has always placed a high value on achievement and excellence, and 500 points - and its equivalent in A Levels and Baccalaureates - represents a great achievement. I congratulate all here – students, parents, guardians and teachers.

In Trinity we hold this event for Entrance Exhibitioners every year, welcoming our new high-achievers to college. As Kevin has said represents a new start because we’ve changed the criteria. It’s quite a seismic shift. Under the previous system, we tended to see many students coming from relatively few schools. Under our new system, there’s a 54 percent increase in the number of Schools from which Entrance Exhibitioners come, and greater geographic diversity.

This year we’re welcoming students from 379 schools across all 32 counties in Ireland, and from 20 countries across Europe and Japan, Singapore and USA.

We’re absolutely delighted about this: it’s a better system because it evaluates students against their peer groups. And it fulfils our objective in Trinity to encourage a more diverse and inclusive student community.

Changing the criteria for Entrance Exhibitioner-ship is just one of the ways in which Trinity seeks to achieve this objective. We’ve also introduced a system of student ambassadors, coming from each county in Ireland, to help us get out the message that Trinity is an all-Ireland institution, and that we seek students with the most aptitude for the education we offer, regardless of background – that means students who have passion for learning, discipline, commitment, creativity, and resilience – that means students like all of you.

We’re delighted that you’ve chosen to bring your exceptional talents to Trinity. And to families, teachers, careers guidance counsellors who may have pointed students towards Trinity, I thank you and I pledge to deliver on your trust. We want the best for our students and that means helping to develop them intellectually and creatively, so that they can build dynamic careers and be active, engaged and responsible citizens.

This Dining Hall is a wonderful place to be welcoming our entrance exhibitioners - it’s one of the older campus buildings and on the walls are notable 18th Trinity alumni. A few of them could, I think, be described as the entrance exhibitioners of their age. For instance, over there is Henry Flood – he received what was called a ‘premium’ for his performance in the first year exams. His academic studies then went a bit downhill; however his later career as a parliamentarian showed that he fully deserved that premium. He didn’t renege on his early promise.

And over there is Barry Yelverton, also a kind of 18th century entrance exhibitioner. He received what was called a ‘sizarship’ - a grant given to Exhibitioners of limited means, and he went on to a successful career at the bar and in parliament. As an undergraduate he co-founded the Historical Club in 1753, which was the precursor to the Hist, the College’s famous debating society, which is still going strong.

I’m delighted that talent and hard work was rewarded in the 18th century, and I’m delighted that it’s still being rewarded.

As Entrance Exhibitioners, you arrive at the university with all the confidence of proven academic success. Knowing you can perform well under pressure will give you assurance next time you’re called on to excel. And when you meet with setbacks – as is inevitable for all of us – then you will have the confidence of this early achievement to draw on. That’s a great advantage in life.

Here in Trinity we offer a high-quality, research-based education that encourages robust exchange of opinion between professor and student.

We are a multidisciplinary university of 24 Schools, ranging from Business to History; from Engineering to Law; from Physics to Pharmacology. We encourage collaborations and exchanges of ideas between Schools, since we want students with the flexibility to think outside their disciplines, and to learn from other ways of doing things.

Trinity is Ireland’s highest-ranked university. Since our foundation 427 years ago, our outlook has always been international, and today we offer a truly global education – involving international student exchanges and research collaborations. I hope that as undergraduates, you’ll avail of opportunities to study abroad.

All of you have achieved exceptionally in difficult end-of-school exams. We’re aware of the distinction you confer on Trinity in choosing to study here, and we thank you for it. You can be confident that you have come to the right place to stretch yourselves.

In your final undergraduate years, you will engage on research projects alongside your professors. By graduation, you will have carried out original research - in the laboratory, library, or fieldwork.

Before those final years, you’ll have another chance to be recognised by the College, through the Scholarship Examination, which you’re invited to sit in your second year.

The reward here is rather greater than the entrance exhibitions I have to say: scholars get free room and board for up to five years – the best deal in town!

Scholarships are part of Trinity’s mission to recognise, and nurture talent. Our curriculum puts strong emphasis on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. And not just our curriculum.

When it comes to educating for independence of mind and participatory citizenship, it’s not just what happens in the library, lecture-room, and laboratory. It’s the whole Trinity experience, and that includes extracurricular.

By ‘Extracurricular’ I mean things like:

* getting involved in clubs and societies;

* volunteering and fund-raising for charity;

* debating;

* organising events;

* writing for college journals;

* designing new technologies or products;

* starting your own business.

Trinity has over a hundred clubs and societies – from sports to drama to politics - so whatever your interests, there is a society for you. I hope you joined a few in Freshers’ Week.

My advice to you now is to make the most of every opportunity. At the junior fresh stage, it’s seldom clear what career you’ll have or where life will take you. It pays to follow interests outside your course, and to be open to experience. Your future isn’t carved in stone. It’s waiting to be created.

This evening, we celebrate the people and establishments that have enabled you to come this far: your parents, guardians and homes; your teachers, head teachers and schools. I thank everyone for being here tonight. I know many of you have travelled long distances.

Every year our university is refreshed by the arrival of new intellects and talents. This is what keeps our campus dynamic and continually evolving. I look forward to seeing all of you here make your mark on this great university.

I wish you the very best of luck.

Thank you.

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