This year’s Leaving Cert students will not miss out on college offers despite their exam results being delayed until September, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said.
The Central Application Office (CAO) and universities have all agreed to accommodate the later timeline, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
He said universities will have to reserve a proportion of on campus accommodation for first year students, as they had done last year.
“We will work with Leaving Cert students to ensure they have a good college experience,” the Minister added.
Minister for Education Norma Foley yesterday confirmed that students would have to wait until Friday, September 3rd, about three weeks later than normal, to access their Leaving Cert results.
It is likely that CAO round one offers for college applicants will follow shortly afterwards in the week beginning Monday, September 6th.
The later results date this year will force many third-level colleges to delay the admission of first-year students by a least a fortnight.
However, higher education sources expect colleges will reopen as scheduled for other students.
Ucas, which oversees applications to UK colleges, said it will move its deadline for accepting offers from Irish students until September 7th to accommodate the new results date. Mr Harris said he had also spoke to European colleagues about any issues that might face Irish students applying to universities in their countries.
The Minister pointed out that there had been 84,500 applications to the CAO this year, the highest ever. He said there would be 4,500 new college places and that the Government was “ trying to match supply to demand”.
Mr Harris said that every year the number of applicants to the CAO increased and that not all would get their first choice.
There was more to higher education than colleges, he said, adding that it was a “bug bear” of his that PLC courses and apprenticeships were not seen as being as attractive given they offer excellent pathways for students.
Mr Harris said the past year had been “rotten” for students and the plan now was to get staff and students back on campus. He said he anticipated that staff will have been “overwhelmingly” vaccinated by September.
Plans for the return to campus would be announced in two weeks, he said. The emerging picture was that there would be lectures, tutorials, clubs and societies, but holding large scale lectures would be a challenge.
Earlier, the director general of the Irish Universities Association told Morning Ireland of how the delay in this year’s Leaving Cert will force universities to defer the arrival of first year students to the third week in September. Jim Miley said it had been hoped to have orientation during the last week in August and for lectures to commence the first week in September.
“It will be the third week in September before we see first years on campus.”
He warned that the “extra” places - anticipated to be between 3,000 to 5,000 - would put pressure on an already overstretched system, noting that Ireland’s staff to student ratio was the worst in Europe.
The number of permanent staff at third-level was limited in 2008 to some 19,000, when there were 155,000 students. He said the figure was the same last year when there were 213,000 students.