Time for a ‘college progression year’


A chara, – Given that the traditional Leaving Cert examination system will not be used this year, we have an opportunity to try something different that may prove to be the way to go for the future.

Instead of relying on the Leaving Cert points system, the screening for places in college degree courses, and other career courses, could be done at the end of a “college progression year”, in students’ most convenient institute of technology. This is the community college approach that works successfully in the US. Students would do a one-year course streamed into one of three broad areas: analytical (mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc); arts (Irish, English, other languages, art, music, etc); and applied (history, social studies, business, economics, etc).

This would be good for students. It would reduce the tendency to choose the wrong course in college.

During their college progression year, they would get to know more about alternative careers, and get introductions to the course programmes they were considering, with lectures from academics, talks from business leaders, and visits to hospitals, companies, technology parks, etc. Their final preferred career choice could be better informed, and chosen based on aptitude tests, interviews, and exam results at the end of their progression year.

By attending their local institute of technology, students would continue to live at home for another year, instead of moving to student accommodation in the cities, where Covid-19 risks will still be greatest. Also it would reduce financial pressure on families to fund their son or daughter living away from home, in a time when incomes have been hit, and unemployment remains high.

It would be good for secondary schools. It would free them to focus more on good basic education, less on cramming to get “points”, and reduce pressure to teach material more suited to college. It would be better and fairer regionally. It would level the playing field between schools, regions, and urban and rural areas, and more and less advantaged students, make the institutes of technology more viable, help decentralisation and the sustainability of the regions, and could increase study and research into locally relevant business and community needs. – Is mise,



(Emeritus Professor

of Decision Analytics),

University College Dublin,

Baile an Fheirtéaraigh,

Co Ciarraí