Chances of getting college place still good for the class of 2013

The number of higher education places may equal demand – perhaps for last time

Leaving Certificate students at Dunshaughlin Community College in Co Meath – from left: Linda McCormack, Catherine Vance, Stuart Bridgett, Sarah Keane, Albert Wilkinson and Aaron Gilmartin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Leaving Certificate students at Dunshaughlin Community College in Co Meath – from left: Linda McCormack, Catherine Vance, Stuart Bridgett, Sarah Keane, Albert Wilkinson and Aaron Gilmartin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Wed, Jun 5, 2013, 09:24

The 56,600 students about to sit their Leaving Certificate examinations from today have an advantage over those who will follow in subsequent years. The class of 2013 is one of the last for some time for which the number of higher education places will equal expected demand.

The change is occurring because the slow decline in the numbers of students sitting the exam is about to end.

Numbers down
The number who have applied to sit this year is down by almost 500 on last year, but this is expected to change. This is already visible in the numbers sitting the Junior Cert, which at 60,243 is up by more than 500 on last year. This should be heartening news for Leaving Cert students but marginally less so for those sitting the Junior Cert. By the time they have to sit their Leaving Cert, there will be more competition for higher education places, according to the Higher Education Authority.

“This is the last year or at best second-last when the supply of higher education places will match demand,” said the authority’s chief executive, Tom Boland. “From 2015, demographic growth will lead to inexorably rising demand for places. Unless the funding conundrum can be fixed this will lead to problems for quality or access or both.”

There are nearly 170,000 full-time places available in higher education, 130,000 of them for undergraduates. The authority expects demand for undergrad places to have increased 25 per cent by the end of the decade.

Best of luck
The Minister for Education and Skills yesterday wished students taking their places in 4,876 examination centres across the country the best of luck as the exams begin. Students would have a chance in the coming days to show all they had learned and mark “the culmination of their hard work”. He also expressed delight so many students had chosen to sit the higher level maths paper given the 25 bonus points available for a pass.

The introduction of the bonus points had been a “stunning success,” said businessman Barry O’Sullivan, who appears on Dragons’ Den on RTÉ. It had boosted numbers sitting higher maths this year by 50 per cent over the numbers in 2011, he said.

The State examinations represented a “milestone” in the lives of students and their families, said the chairman of the State Examinations Commission, Richard Langford. The exams were a demanding test of ability requiring focus and hard work, he said.