Arts graduate applying to four-year undergraduate course in occupational therapy
A query came our way recently from a graduate applicant to an undergraduate course in the healthcare area. The applicant already has an Arts degree, and he was applying to a four-year undergraduate course in occupational therapy.
It is not uncommon for graduates to apply to a second undergraduate course, (although generally speaking, they must pay tuition fees for their second course).
They can be assessed for selection in a number of different ways. Occasionally a graduate may find that the Leaving Certificate points for a course that they failed to make as school-leavers have now dropped, and they may now use their original points to obtain entry.
In other cases, graduates or mature applicants will be assessed on other qualifications.
There is a specific graduate entry route into medicine, whereby applicants must present with a certain level of degree, and sit the GAMSAT (graduate medical schools admissions test). They are then ranked in order of merit on their results in that test.
There are significant quotas of places for mature applicants to nursing, and such applicants must sit a written assessment test, and are ranked in order of their results in it.
Other courses like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, radiography, -- indeed almost any degree course, will hold a small number of places for mature or non-standard applicants, including graduates from other courses.
For most courses, there is no particular written entrance examination, so the allocation of places is less transparent.
That does not mean that the places are being allocated in any unfair way, but that one candidate's qualifications and experience may be regarded more favourably than another's.
The applicant who made the query found that he had been unsuccessful in his application, and he wondered had he any right of appeal to CAO.
CAO does have an appeals system, but it would only relate to cases where applicants believed that they had suffered through some error on the part of CAO in its processing of the application.
CAO would have no role to play in the decisions of individual colleges in allocating places in a situation like this. The colleges would retain the right to make such decisions themselves.
A case like this highlights the benefits of a transparent, if somewhat blunt, system like the Leaving Certificate points system, where people understand clearly how they stand, even if they are not happy about it, versus a system where they do not know why they have not made the grade.
That is the frustrating aspect for many mature or non-standard applicants, of whom there are increasing numbers.
This was a topic touched on by Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn in a recent address at the Royal Irish Academy on "Delivering the Strategy for Higher Education", when he said that "lifelong learning is now a core guiding principle of Irish higher education".
He said he was seeking a full and frank consideration of the points issue within the higher education sector within the next few months.
Let us hope the best elements of the points system can be retained.