Postgrad teaching applications jump amid supply ‘crisis’

Universities still seeking teaching applicants from maths, science and languages

The number of students applying for postgraduate teaching courses has increased amid concerns of a “crisis” in teacher supply.

There has been a steady downward trend in applications to these courses over recent years, with entries down from 2,821 in 2011 to 1,068 in 2017, a drop of more than 60 per cent.

However, provisional figures indicate there are about 1,366 applications to university postgraduate courses this year, the first increase in years.

The turnaround will come as a relief to policymakers, though there is no guarantee it will ease concerns over shortages in key subjects such as maths, science, Irish and languages.


Secondary schools say they are facing acute shortages of teachers in these areas.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said he welcomed the increases and said teaching remained a 'very attractive career option'

To help address this, universities are seeking to increase the supply to teachers in “priority subjects” areas by keeping their application window open until mid-April.

They have defined these subjects as maths, applied maths, physics, chemistry, Irish, chemistry, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

Open for applicants

UCC, UCD, Maynooth University and NUI Galway say they will keep their postgraduate applications open for applicants from these subject backgrounds until April 13th. Other colleges are understood to be exploring similar measures.

In an encouraging move, meanwhile, last week’s provisional CAO figures show an increase in the numbers applying to study undergraduate teacher training courses.

Applications for both primary teaching and secondary teaching have increased.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said he welcomed the increases and said teaching remained a "very attractive career option".

The issue of shortages of teachers in key subjects, however, remains an ongoing concern.

Just last week the president of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools warned that students’ subject choice and the quality of teaching was at risk unless teacher supply was tackled.


Antoinette Nic Gearailt said pupils' education was, in many cases, being disrupted due to difficulties such as a lack of applicants for teaching jobs or the withdrawal of appointed candidates faced with an array of job offers.

Hiring qualified substitute staff for sick leave or other forms of leave was a “near impossibility”, she said.

Ms Nic Gearailt said schools were unable to fill 12-month contracts across a range of core subjects such as languages, maths, science and home economics.

“Schools lost teachers as they were about to re-open, leaving students without teachers at the start of the new term or resulting in major timetable changes that put a huge burden of work on principals and deputy principals,” she said.

A survey of its member schools this year found that the pattern was repeated in “almost all regions with Dublin being especially problematic”.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent