Ask Brian: My daughter wants to study physiotherapy but the points are too high. What can she do?

There are alternatives including degrees through English in the Netherlands

Question: My daughter is due to sit the Leaving Cert next year. She works hard and on a good day might secure 450 points. Her heart is set on becoming a physiotherapist, but might miss out on points. She is becoming very distressed. Can you suggest any way forward for her?

Answer: If looked at purely from the perspective of level eight degrees available through the CAO in Irish institutions, your daughter's chances of securing a place are slim.

She is likely to need to secure a minimum of 540 CAO points to secure a place in one of the four physiotherapy degree programmes in Trinity, UCD, UL, and the Royal College of Surgeons.

There are two other programmes currently available on lower points. “Athletic therapy and training” in DCU currently requires 510 points, and a similar programme in IT Carlow, “sports rehabilitation and athletic therapy”, requires 445 points.


There are also two CAO programmes offered in IT Sligo, “science: health science and physiology”, and IT Carlow, “science: physiology and health science”.

In the past, they have been used by Irish students as a stepping stone into physiotherapy degree programmes in the UK, where they paid no tuition fees as they were covered by the NHS.

Following the British government’s withdrawal of all NHS funding in English universities for all nursing and para medical programmes from 2017 onwards, students on these programmes who progress to UK universities will now pay the full £9,000 (€10.5k) annual fees plus living expenses.

Brexit – in the absence of a special deal – may well turn €9,000 into €20,000-plus as international fees kick in, after Britain leaves the EU in 2019.

The best option for Irish students who have completed physiotherapy based QQI Level five , six or seven programmes, and for your daughter may be to consider exploring the option of taking a physiotherapy degree taught entirely through English in an EU university.

Irish students are applying for these programmes in increasing numbers. By far the most popular destination is the Netherlands, where four institutions offer physiotherapy through English.

The statutory tuition fee in the Netherlands is just over €2,000, though two of the institutions charge a supplement of €1,000. Whatever the fee, it can paid through an interest-free tuition fee loan over 35 years from the Dutch government.

European universities don’t select based on points. You will usually be required to write a personal statement, and are often interviewed. Entry requirements for these programmes may involve biology with a minimum of two H4s and four O6s.

Relevant QQI level five awards are also accepted. The qualifications offered by these universities are accepted for registration purposes as a physiotherapists both in Ireland and throughout Europe.

Full details of all degree programmes taught through English in Europe are available online from Eunicas as well as assistance in processing applications for Irish students. Your daughter can meet two of these universities in Cork or Galway soon, in events organised by Eunicas (see details on their home page

Of one thing I am absolutely certain, if your daughter wishes to become a physiotherapist, a Leaving Cert a score of 450 CAO points won’t stop her.