Not surprising, but interesting nevertheless: Development Practice students care about global issues

22/10/2014 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

By Hans Zomer


In April, I wrote a blog post about a mini survey I did among journalism students in Dublin. It contrasted the opinions of a very small sample of students with the answers provided by a representative sample of 1,000 people across Ireland.

Unsurprisingly, that survey showed that journalism students felt better informed about global issues than the general public, and more aware of the impact of their daily life choices in Ireland on others.

Today, I repeated the exercise with a larger group of students, at University College Dublin. These were students at the Trinity/UCD Masters in Development Practice, and the survey was taken as part of an extra-curricular event, so obviously heavily biased towards more engaged students.

Even so, their answers are interesting:

  • The UCD students (remember, these are students in the Trinity/UCD Masters in Development Practice!) do believe they can make a difference. The vast majority disagreed with a statement that their day-to-day actions don’t have anything to do with global issues, and they do believe that there are many ways in which they can take action to make a change.



  • The UCD students believe that the progress being made in African societies is greater than what the general public think is the case. While the percentage who state that Africa is “much better off” is virtually the same (10% versus 8%), the percentage of students who answered “better off” (62%) is much higher than among the respondents to the Amarach survey last year (36%).


  • The students were also more optimistic about the impact of Irish overseas aid. When asked “Do you think that aid from Ireland makes a real difference to the lives of people in developing countries?”, one in three students answered “quite a lot of difference”, compared to 23% of the general public in Ireland. Interestingly, the “don’t know” percentage was similar to that of the bigger, national survey.


  •  The students are more positive about their ability to influence their own society, with 48% declaring that they are confident in their ability – double the percentage of people in the wider Irish society who gave that answer.
    Yet, a full 33% of respondents aren’t sure, and 19% disagree with the statement, which is not much lower than the share of the general population that feels powerless to affect change in Ireland.
  • When asked about their ability to influence “decisions affecting other parts of the world, 38% agreed with the statement that they were confident in their ability to do so; this compares favourably with 19% of the people in Ireland who said the same thing. 48% of the students and 32% of the participants in the Amárach study said they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement.


  • The students are not impressed with “the media”. A whopping 72% don’t think information about global development received via the media is reliable – contrasted with only 22% of the general public giving the same answer.
    29% of students think the media is “fairly reliable”, compared to 56% of people in Ireland who thought that is the case.



  • School and work colleagues are considered the most reliable source of information, with 42% of students saying they are “very reliable” and 48% saying they are “fairly reliable”. The relevant figures for the wider population are “very reliable” 16% and “fairly reliable” 48%. In other words, students rely on their peers even more than the rest of us do.
  • And they are more trusting of aid agencies (19% said they were “very reliable” and 67% saying they are “fairly reliable”; compared to 30% and 45% respectively among the respondents to the bigger survey), and less trusting of missionaries than the general public (52% of the students said missionary sources of information were “not very reliable”, compared to only 13% of the wider sample who took that view).




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