Extra 800 college places will be offered in bid to ease Leaving Cert concerns



The number of CAO places being offered on Friday is to rise by a further 800 in the hope of calming the turbulence stirred up by the best Leaving Cert results in history.

urther and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris confirmed the figure in the Dáil today.

That is on top of the 1,250 additional places announced last week, which were deemed to be not enough in the unusual circumstances of this year.

Medicine, nursing and business are among the areas where more places are expected to open, over and above what has already been announced.

It’s all part of a Government attempt to ensure that disappointment is at a minimum when the first round of college offers are issued.

College admissions officers and the CAO are currently engaged in the annual number-crunching to decide on the offers, and the new places will feed into that process.

That followed an initiative pre-dating Covid-19, which will see 1,415 more places coming on stream this month in areas including engineering, computing and science, where there are shortages of graduates.

But that was deemed to not be enough.

The Cabinet approved the additional intake yesterday amid ongoing concerns about the impact of the 4.4pc inflation in Leaving Cert grades this year.

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris updated his Government colleagues on the state of play in efforts by colleges to increase capacity.

On Monday, he met the Higher Education Authority and representatives of universities and institutes of technology, to discuss where extra places could be provided, and they were given flexibility to see where most demand lay.

The high Leaving Cert grades of 2020 translate into high CAO points, which means competition for places will be even keener, particularly among high-demand courses with a small intake.

On top of that, the inflated 2020 grades have put CAO applicants competing on the basis of Leaving Certs from previous years at a disadvantage. They have been clamouring for fair treatment.

About 360 of the 1,250 places announced last week are going to high-demand courses such as medicine, nursing, post-primary teaching and law. Individual colleges decide how to allocate the rest, depending on demand.

Meanwhile, Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick said in the Dáil that the Leaving Cert class of 2019 should have their grades inflated by 4.4pc to prevent them from being elbowed out of a college place this autumn,

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it had been a unique year because of Covid “and no ideal solution can be found, other than to sit the Leaving Certificate examinations”.

It was another busy day on the National Parents’ Council Post Primary (NPCPP) helpline and, unsurprisingly, the results were the main topic on the mind of callers.

But guidance counsellors also saw a shift towards queries relating to the CAO, further education and training options.

Irish Independent



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