Thursday 13 November 2014

Missing students

I don't do medieval, so I feel I can't participate fully in the annual razz-ma-tazz of conferring of degrees at The Institute. There's something wrong with a college that was founded in 1970 requiring everyone to tog up in the coloured gowns and silly hats of high fashion ca. 1470 to give degrees/certs/diplomas to the students. I didn't do it for either of my degrees and at least one of the institutions awarding them was nearly 400 years old when I passed through.  It's surely much better to look forward to the future or at least be fully in the present, rather than hiding behind of wash of nostalgia. OTOH, I can't, in all conscience, just mitch off for the two days that we close for classes so that parents can see their offspring finally finish college with a certificate of competency. What I do to square all this with my conscience is to dust off my interview/wedding/funeral suit and a 'biological' tie, put on my father's black leather shoes and go to bear witness on the day that our students go through the mill.  It's a nice occasion: you get introduced to some parents, you get to scoff many free canapés, the girls teeter on dangerously high heels in skirts that are much shorter than November deserves and the boys look uncomfortable in suits and tight collars.  But it goes on and on as the students troop across the dias to get their scroll and have 5 seconds with The President.

What to do?  Start analysing the data!  The Institute lays out a couple of thousand copies of a brochure printed for the occasion (one for each graduating student) most of which consists of lists of students by degree programme and by count[r]y.  The Business School may be top heavy with Chinese, but science graduates come almost entirely from the Republic of Ireland.  I was struck by how few seemed to come from the Institute's home county . . . so I made a list of the 26 counties and started to tally up the students from the School of Science binning them into county. There seemed to be an unsurprising trend  -the further the county the fewer students - but the data needed some tweaking because Dublin and Waterford are equidistant but the former has 20x more people. The data flatten out if we look at log(graduates/CountyPop) vs distance:
The outlier bottom right is the 1 out of +250 graduates who made the trek from Donegal which is brave but not surprising.  What is surprising are the three counties which are conspicuously below the trend line.  We don't have a single student from Co Limerick and we are seriously short of Dubliners. HR and Publicity & Promotion Liaison Officers please note.

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