Ask Brian: My son wants to be a doctor but didn’t get the points. Are there other options?

Many EU universities offer medical programmes through English

Question: My son got 520 CAO points in his Leaving Cert. He would like to be a doctor, but received no offer from any universities in Ireland. Do you have any information about other options available to him?

Answer: Allowing for the combination of Leaving Cert grades and Hpat scores, 520 CAO points won't do it for undergraduate medicine in the Irish system, even though technically a result over 480 puts you in the frame for consideration.

However, admission to EU universities in medical degree programmes taught through English is very much a possibility.

There are more than 50 medical programmes, taught through English in the EU and recognised by the Irish Medical Council, and more are being offered every year.


Details on all of these are on Eunicas (, a specialist website which provides information and support on more than 1,000 degree programmes taught in EU universities through English.

Most European universities do not select their incoming students based on academic achievement alone.

They use a range of assessment instruments including personal statements, references, competency in science subjects, interviews and so on.

The Eunicas website can filter degrees offered by reputation, fees charged, assessment procedures, current Irish student numbers attending and, in the case of medicine, whether physics is required.

In terms of reputation, QS – one of the major rankings agencies – places the Dutch and Italian faculties highly.

When it comes to fees, the University of Malta charges no fees but the competition for places is highly competitive.

The universities of Groningen and Maastricht offer undergraduate medicine for €2,060 per annum, but only years one to three are taught through English and entry is highly competitive. The public Italian medical schools, of which there are seven, charge between €640-€3,800, based on parental income.

When it comes to assessment procedures, some organise entry tests in Ireland or conduct them over Skype. Other universities organise exams in London or required you to travel to their university. Some do not have any exams and select based on Leaving Cert grades.

For graduates with relevant degrees, there are a few four-year graduate programmes in Poland. Otherwise, students may apply for year exemptions from six-year programmes elsewhere.

Most Irish medical students in European universities tend to study in Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic, with growing numbers in Italy.

When it comes to universities that require physics, both the Dutch and one or two of the Polish colleges, have this requirement.

Taking a biomedical science course in Ireland is another option. You could reapply through the CAO, repeat the Hpat to secure a higher score and, if successful, secure an undergraduate place in first year medicine.

If on entry you present biomedical results which are very impressive, you may seek to be allowed to progress directly into second year, but this is at the discretion of individual medical faculties and will depend on whether there are places available.