Last-minute bid to ease CAO points pressure with 500 additional college places

Concern over impact of grade inflation on thousands of deferred college applicants

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that “hundreds” of additional placed had been sources following discussion with representative bodies for the universities and institutes of technology. Photograph: Julien Behal

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that “hundreds” of additional placed had been sources following discussion with representative bodies for the universities and institutes of technology. Photograph: Julien Behal

 

The Government is to fund an extra 500 higher education places on high-demand courses in areas such as medicine, nursing, law and business in a last-minute bid to ease pressure linked to the points race.

These places are due to be added into the third level system ahead of the release of CAO offers to students on Friday afternoon.

It brings the total number of additional higher education places being added to the third level system this year to about 5,000, or 10 per cent of existing first-year undergraduate places.

These additional places come at a time of growing concern over the impact that grade inflation will have on college applicants who are using results achieved in previous years.

Thousands of these students argue that their results will be devalued compared to the Leaving Cert class of 2020 and that they will miss out on college places as a result.

About 20,000 applicants out of more than 70,000 who have applied to the CAO for college courses this year are deferred applicants.

However, it is estimated that about half this number will be in competition with the class of 2020 for points, given that many already have college offers.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that “hundreds” of additional placed had been sources following discussion with representative bodies for the universities and institutes of technology.

Government sources have since confirmed that the number is likely to be in the region of 500 places.

This is the maximum number of places available within the capacity of the higher education system , say well-placed sources.

The Government hope the additional places will ease some of the points pressure in courses, though there is an acknowledgement that it will not go far enough to satisfy all deferred students.

Many of these students are college applicants who took a gap year to earn money or who took a break for health or personal reasons. Many others are students who dropped out of their existing courses.

Minister Harris said potential solutions being touted such as ring-fencing college places for deferred applicants or increasing CAO points for these candidates were legally vulnerable and could create additional unfairness.