Judgment reserved in student's medical degree entry case

 

THE HIGH Court has reserved judgment on an action by a student who claims an unfair policy operates in the education system under which people from outside the EU can pay to get places on undergraduate medicine courses while Irish and EU citizens cannot.

Pharmacy student Frank Prendergast (20) claims the Minister for Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) have directed third-level institutions to "drastically reduce" and limit the number of places for Irish citizens on such courses.

Mr Prendergast, who just missed out getting into medicine after sitting his Leaving Cert in 2007, claims he offered to pay the fees charged to non-EU students for whom places are set aside but was refused by five Irish third-level institutions.

The action, against the HEA and the Minister, concluded after six days yesterday and Mr Justice Peter Charleton said he would give his judgment next week.

Mr Prendergast, Clonfadda House, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin, wants an order requiring the HEA and the Minister to rescind the directions relating to the number of places on offer to EU students. He also sought declarations including that the limiting of the number of places available to EU students is unlawful and unconstitutional.

The HEA and the Minister have denied the claims and say they are entitled as a matter of policy to make medical places available to non-EU students because their fees part-fund the courses of EU students.

They also pleaded that, without that money, some medical schools could not operate.

If there is any discrimination between EU and non-EU nationals, which they deny, there is an objective justification for it. They further argue that a 2006 report addresses the objective of increasing the number of medical school places available to EU students.

Known as the Fottrell Report, it recommended an increase in medical places for Irish/EU students from 305 per annum to 725 (comprising 485 undergraduate places and 240 in a new graduate-entry programme). Under further reforms due to come in next year, the number of points is being reduced to 480 along with an aptitude test.

Mr Prendergast said that he secured six As in honours subjects in his Leaving and achieved a total of 550 points, just below the 570 required to secure a place on a degree course in medicine.