‘Too Little too Late’: Government Fail at CAO Fairness

The government’s management of third-level offers for the 2020 CAO process has been ‘too little too late’. They have failed to ensure fairness or a level playing field for students.

Many hard-working students have been badly let down by the government. Substantial increases in entrance points will mean many students will not get the courses that they want. Prior leaving cert students will be particularly disadvantaged.

The results are in on the government’s management of the CAO process and they have clearly failed.

The Minister needs to look at swiftly implementing change to the appeals process to provide students with an avenue for a real review of their case.

Points for many courses have skyrocketed, with some in-demand courses increasing by 80+ points. Paramedic Studies in the University of Limerick is up by 79 points, Law and French in Cork University are up by 89 points, and Pharmaceutical Science in TU Dublin has increased by a shocking 116.

There are a number of reasons for this. Some are the result of a failure to adequately prepare over the last few months, others have been years in the making.

We needed this government to hit the ground running back in June to put in place additional capacity as fast as possible. Instead, we have seen a last-minute scramble with extra 120 places announced overnight in a last-minute effort to ease the chaos. It is too little, too late for many students.

I have continuously questioned the substance of the spin that 5,000 extra new places added this year would address the problem of predicted grades.  By the Department of Education’s own figures, 4,184 new third-level places were needed prior to COVID just to meet demographic demand. 

Underfunding has meant that universities in particular have struggled to keep up with demand for places over the last few years. 

On top of this, thousands of students who normally go abroad to study each year are staying in Ireland due to Covid. 

The simple fact is that we have had 10 years of chronic underfunding of third-level institutes with 50% less funding per student than in 2008. We were starting at a huge disadvantage in dealing with the fall-out of Covid.

The government should have anticipated the situation and begun taking action as soon as the new government was formed. Instead leaving cert and third-level was ignored until the last minute and we are seeing the result of this now.