Additional College Places Needed to Match Demand

I have called on the government to stop downplaying the scale of the increase of applicants to the CAO. They must take action to make additional places available.

The delay of Leaving Cert results until 3rd September will be very stressful news for students and their families. This will have a real knock-on impact. It will reduce student’s time to make informed decisions about their futures. And it puts them at a substantial disadvantage in securing accommodation.

Another concern is around the reports that 84,500 people have applied to the CAO. This is an extraordinary increase.

For comparison, last year there was an increase of 462 applicants to the CAO, this year it is 6,332. That is a 14-fold increase.

It should also be noted that a number of high points courses like medicine will already have allocated places to students who sat their Leaving Cert last November.

I have been raising the need to plan for adding additional places with the Minister since January. This is particularly important for in-demand courses. The government needs to stop downplaying the issue and take action.

Last year we were told over 5,000 additional places were added to ease pressure on grade inflation. Yet in the end only 2,500 additional offers were made by the CAO. And we saw record grade inflation in many courses.

Announcing places that are not going to be filled is much easier than adding places on in-demand courses.

I welcome the announcement that 184 places will be added for nursing. This is sorely needed. But really this is not enough. The INMO has been calling since last year for 250 places to be added with increases every year until we reach 2,500.

Since Fine Gael came to power 10 years ago, there has only been 3 additional places added for medicine – and that was as far back as 2014.

The construction industry has repeatedly warned of skill shortages for engineers, architects, and quantity surveyors. Yet those places in colleges continue to be in short supply.

We are now facing another last-minute scramble to find additional places for the second year.

That is not how our third-level education and training should be managed. We need forward thinking, and planning that matches places with the needs of our economy and society.

Funding needs to be provided urgently to colleges for more permanent staff in order to increase places.