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Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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Entry points for colleges to rise

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 10, 2012

Entry points for colleges to rise
A study commissioned by Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn last year suggested that a cap on student numbers may be necessary

SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor Irish Times
The points race for entry to third-level colleges is set to intensify this year with record numbers expected to apply for places.
As thousands of students submit their CAO choices this month, career experts expect a marked increase in points – especially for high-demand courses in science, technology and agriculture which appear to offer better job prospects.

But points for broad-based courses in arts and business – the pillars of the CAO system – could also rise.

More than 40,000 students are set to make their initial application to the CAO before the February 1st deadline.

Students can, however, also use the “change of mind” process in June to finalise their options before the July 1st deadline.
Several factors are combining to put upward pressure on points, including:

* The extra 25 bonus points available to the 8,000-plus students set to take higher-level maths in the Leaving Cert.

* The fall in the number of Irish students applying to colleges in Britain because of higher tuition charges – and the expected increase in British students applying to less expensive Irish colleges.

* The inability of many colleges to meet increased student demand because of cuts in staff and funding.

* An increase in applications from those who are struggling to find jobs or apprecenticeships.

The new bonus points system – designed to boost the take-up for higher-level maths – will be applied for the first time this summer. Students who secure a D3 or better in higher-level maths in the Leaving Cert will gain an extra 25 CAO points if maths is counted among their six best subjects.

Career experts say the 8,000-plus students expected to take higher-level maths will enjoy a significant advantage in the race for places in coveted courses such as medicine, healthcare, and science and technology.

The 20 per cent drop in applications by Irish students to British colleges will also put upward pressure on points.

English colleges can increase fees to £7,000-£9,000 from September but the increase has seen applications from Ireland drop from 2,352 to 1,899 in the past year.

This could also increase applications from British students to Irish colleges as they are liable only for the €2,250 student contribution charge. In particular, Trinity College Dublin – the top ranked Irish university – expects more applications from Britain.

Several Irish colleges – especially the seven universities – are already at capacity. Many are in no position to provide additional places.

Last year, a study commissioned by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn suggested that a cap on student numbers may be necessary.

The report from the Higher Education Authority underlined the grave funding crisis facing the sector as it seeks to accommodate record numbers of students with less income.

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