New entry criteria for medicine courses unveiled


STUDENTS WILL no longer have to achieve the "perfect" Leaving Cert to gain entry to medicine from next year.

Details of a new selection process for entry to undergraduate medicine were published yesterday. Under the arrangements, entry to medical education will no longer be based solely on Leaving Cert results.

The selection criteria will be based on: achieving a minimum of 480 points and meeting the minimum entry requirements for the medical programme in the same sitting of the Leaving Cert; and completing the required admission test, to be known as the Health Professions Admission Test - Ireland (HPAT-Ireland), within the two-year period preceding admission to the programme. The first tests will be held in February 2009 and will cost about €95.

The requirements will see the results of the Leaving Cert and the admission test combined for a maximum mark of 860. The maximum Leaving Cert score will be 560 points, while the admission test will have a maximum score of 300.

Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe said the new system, along with additional places in medicine, would ease the burden on students.

Under pressure from former minister for education Mary Hanafin, the scheme was recently agreed by the academic councils of the four universities with undergraduate medical schools - NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, UCC and UCD - as well as the Royal College of Surgeons.

The admission test for entry in 2009 will take place on Saturday, February 14th, 2009, in test centres in Cork, Dublin, Galway, the northwest and the southeast.

An information brochure outlining the details of the selection criteria is being sent to all secondary schools this month. Further details are available from university admissions offices.

Under the arrangements, Leaving Cert points up to 550 will be given full credit. But each additional five CAO points over the 550 threshold will be given one additional point only.

For example, a student with 555 points will be credited with 551 points, a student with 560 points will be credited with 552 points, and so on. This means that the maximum Leaving Cert score will translate to 560 points.

The new HPAT-Ireland test, chosen through an international tender process, will be independently administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research. HPAT-Ireland examines mental ability, reasoning, personal skills and professional attributes.

Prof Bill Powderly, head of medicine at UCD, said last night that the test measured ability rather than prepared learning. This would help avoid a situation whereby scores could be improved through repeated testing and grind courses, he said.

The reforms announced yesterday are broadly in line with the recommendations of the Fottrell report on medical education, published two years ago. Since then, the cap on undergraduate medical places for Irish/EU students has been raised from 305 to 480 and new postgraduate courses have been established. When both the undergraduate and graduate entry routes come fully on stream, the annual intake of Irish/EU students will be 720.

Yesterday, Mr O'Keeffe said the quality of medical education was of national importance. "For students hoping to pursue medical careers, the combination of additional places and the new selection criteria will come as a welcome development," he added.