Too many courses on CAO, says HEA boss

Universities backtrack on plan to reform ‘bewildering’ CAO system

Tom Boland, chief executive of the  Higher Education Authority,  said some universities were  “lamentably slow, even contradictory” in reducing number of courses.

Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, said some universities were “lamentably slow, even contradictory” in reducing number of courses.

 

Several universities are blocking attempts by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to reduce the number of entry courses in a bid to simplify the third-level entry system.

Last year, an expert group comprising the Irish Universities’ Association and other educational stakeholders, said the State’s seven universities had committed to ensuring the number of undergraduate courses offered in 2015 was reduced to 2011 levels.

However, the CAO handbook for this year shows the number of level 8 honours bachelor degree courses is still 10 per cent above 2011 levels.

Speaking at a higher education conference in Trinity College Dublin last Thursday, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority Tom Boland criticised universities for forcing students to specialise too early in their studies.

While Maynooth University and UCD had made moves to significantly reduce the number of entry courses, other universities were “lamentably slow, even contradictory” in their policies, he said.

“Recent ESRI research has shown that the bewildering range of course offerings currently available causes students additional pressure and some choose a course option that they later regret.

“At least with a broad first year experience, it is possible for a learner to gain knowledge of a range of topics within their discipline or across disciplines before making what can often be a life defining choice.”

Colleges have been accused of trying to manipulate entry points by putting on a large number of courses with a low intake of students.