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Independent.ie

Friday 20 October 2017

Surge in demand for ag courses

Catriona Murphy

Demand for places on agricultural courses looks set to remain sky high as Leaving Certificate students submitted their college choices through the Central Applications Office (CAO) ahead of last Wednesday's deadline.

Application numbers for university places in agriculture, food and veterinary courses in UCD, UCC, WIT and Athlone IT will not be known until CAO forms have been processed. However, demand for places on Teagasc courses is already running higher than last year at some Teagasc colleges.

Kildalton principal Frank Murphy said applications for agriculture courses at his college were already running 10pc higher than the same time last year, while Teagasc's head of education, Paddy Browne, said application numbers across the six colleges were running "at least as high as last year".

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While both men warned that the increase could be indicative of earlier applications rather than more applications, Mr Browne said the feeling among education providers was that there could be higher demand than ever.

"Some of our partner institutes of education feel that demand for agriculture has not peaked yet," he said.

Mr Browne hinted that Teagasc could be forced to contract out more education services this year than it did last year.

A record 1,322 students enrolled across the seven colleges where Teagasc courses are offered -- Gurteen, Kildalton, Clonakilty, Ballyhaise, Pallaskenry, Mountbellew and the Botanic Gardens -- last year.

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In order to cater for students, teaching work was contracted out and additional part-time courses were laid on.

"Our aim is to match that intake in 2012 but we are due to lose 14 more education staff this year through retirement," said Mr Browne.

"We will be looking at contracting out more services if we need to."

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