The creation of more places in highly contested university courses is being discussed by Irish universities and the Department of Education Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, has said.

Speaking earlier this week, Minister Harris voiced his confidence in the ongoing talks to explore where “it will be possible […] to provide more university places.” According to Minister Harris, the possible increases “will not be in every area but in some areas […] particularly in some high demand courses.”

While no particular courses were mentioned, it has been reported in the Irish Independent that these ‘high demand courses’ will likely include Medicine and Health Sciences. There has been a 6% increase in demand for Medicine courses in comparison to 2019, and applications to some health science courses have seen double-digit percentage increases in 2020.

It is unclear how increased admissions may be accommodated amid the restricted on-campus learning predicted for the upcoming academic year. There are currently 90 places in University College Dublin’s (UCD) Medicine course open to applicants, with 77 places in Graduate medicine. Last year, 40 applicants were accepted into UCD’s Biomedical Health & Life Sciences.

Last week, UCD’s Deputy President and Registrar, Professor Mark Rogers, revised down estimates for student on-campus learning, indicating that most undergraduate students will be in classrooms around 30-70% of their normal schedule, while most graduates will receive between 20% and 86% of normal classroom time. 

Despite this, UCD School of Medicine has said it will aim to give “the best possible campus and blended learning experience” in the upcoming trimester. The School has said that essential practical teaching sessions, small group teaching, tutorials and PBL sessions will be prioritised for face to face delivery. Where this isn’t possible, lectures will be delivered remotely; synchronously and asynchronously, through pre-recordings.

Second-Level students who are expecting Leaving Certificate results are due to receive them on 7th September. CAO offers for college places will be issued four days later on September 11th. UCD’s Autumn Trimester will begin on Monday 21 September for all students except incoming first-year undergraduates, who are expected to begin classes on Monday 28 September. 

The College Tribune reached out to UCD officials regarding the possibility of increasing certain courses student intake and the possible Covid-related implications but has not received any information at the time of publishing.

Gemma Farrell – Assistant News Editor