More than half of Ireland's 17 to 19-year-olds are enrolling in higher education.
The admission rate rose from 44 per cent to 54 per cent during 2003 and is now 2.7 times what it was 25 years ago, according to a survey published by the Higher Education Authority. The figures do not take into account those who go to UK universities or to private or further education colleges in Ireland.
Despite the rapid growth in numbers entering further and higher education, graduates are doing well in the job market. A separate HEA study shows that in the period 1993-2003, the proportion of graduates seeking employment fell by half.
In 1993, 6 per cent of that year's graduates were seeking employment six to nine months later. In 2003, this figure had dropped to 3 per cent. Over the same period, the numbers of graduates in employment in Ireland increased by 7 per cent, to 46 per cent and the numbers in employment overseas dropped from 9 per cent to 5 per cent.
While 51 per cent were working six to nine months after graduating, 40 per cent went on to further studies or training. Five per cent declared themselves not available for work or study; many of these travelled to Australia for a year off.
Mary Sweeney, careers officer at Limerick University, said: "It's a sign of their confidence that they will easily find employment when they return. It also shows that graduates are not very worried about unemployment."