Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris has said that the current third-level system is “not fit for purpose” in an interview with Pat Kenny on Newstalk.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Harris outlined his new idea for an integrated application portal that would enable students to view all further study options available to them post-Leaving Certificate. 

“I’d really like to see a single portal where students can see all the options available to them, rather than just the university route,” Harris told Kenny. “We should be having the conversation ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ and show people four or five ways to get there.”

He noted that the first-year dropout rate in Ireland is around 14%, and that providing students with better guidance and information could help reduce this. Students who drop out in first year and transfer to another course lose part of their state funding grant and must at some point pay full tuition.  

Harris emphasised the apprenticeship model as a potential route for students, contending that, “We need to move beyond the cultural snobbiness where parents often ask what college you want to go to rather than what career you want to have”. 

He also referenced the need to provide students with a range of options on finishing second-level education: “The current system, in my view, is not fit for purpose. It is directing all our children in one direction without talking to them about the range of options and recognising that we all learn in different ways.”

The Minister expressed his intent to increase on-campus engagement for first-years in 2021, “I have not given up that hope, but it would be wholly irresponsible at the moment. We have quite a period of time to go before the college year ends and I still would like our first-year students, even in very small groups, to be invited to see their campus.” 

Isobel Dunne – Reporter