The creation of an additional 800 new places for in demand university courses has been announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Research Simon Harris. The move comes in the wake of Leaving Certificate grade inflation and increased points pressure caused by the predicted grades system. 

Announcing on his Twitter page, Minister Harris said that “we’ve been working with the Higher Education Authority and institutions across the country and we’ve managed to secure more than 800 further places for people to access higher education this year”. Further adding that he “hope[s] this announcement will help and I know it will help…people get into college this year”. 

Commenting on this development, Professor Gerard Fealy (Head of School at the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems) said that his school will be expecting a “relatively small number of additional students” this year which will be “spread across the programme majors”. When asked about the level of support these additional students will be given, Fealy responded that “all our students will be afforded the same support” as in previous years. He added that, “personal tutors” will be assigned to each student which will offer “personal academic guidance and monitoring around clinical placements”. 

These supplementary places are in combination with the additional 1,250 announced last week which are understood to be concentrated in high demand programmes such as business, nursing and medicine. In total, over 5,000 university places have been created with 2,000 being allocated in the last Budget. 

However, Minister Harris’ announcement may be of little consolation to the Leaving Certificate class of 2019 as he has also ruled out the ring fencing of university places for these students citing it as “legally fraught”. Adding that, “principally on the basis that the idea of recalculating grades to bring 2019 results in line with 2020 does not work because the grade inflation of 4.4 per cent was an average figure and doesn’t mean that everyone in 2020 rose by 4.4 per cent”. Currently, the Minister is only considering increases in the number of available places and that they are “now very much at the outer limits” of additional capacity. 

Rowan Kelleher – Assistant News Editor