How private colleges offer an alternative
With more and more people chasing a place in college, prospective students are well advised to explore all opportunities for getting that degree.
This year has seen a record 77,000 applications to the CAO, much of the surge coming from the over-23s who want to align their qualifications with the needs of the workplace in today's fast-changing world.
While the publicly funded universities and institutes of technology are the main focus of those seeking a place in higher education, private colleges have long filled an important niche in the market.
They offer a range of undergraduate courses, both within the CAO system, accredited by the Higher Education Training and Awards Council (HETAC), and outside of it.
For courses not within the CAO, students apply directly to the particular college, and in such cases there is often a progression route to universities in the UK to complete a degree programme.
Private colleges specialise in specific areas, including Business, Accountancy, Law, Media and Design at both Level 7 ordinary degree and higher certificate, and Level 8 honours degree.
Where a course is within the CAO, the points cut-off is usually well below what is required in the publicly funded colleges, and a student may only have to satisfy the minimum entry requirements, such as having grades in certain subjects.
The private colleges are smaller than the publicly-funded institutions, which facilitates small classes and is preferred by students who feel they may be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers in a larger college.
While fees are payable and are usually of the order of €5,000-€6,000, they qualify for tax relief at the standard rate.
Most private colleges are located in Dublin, offering a good alternative for students from the city who do not want to leave home.
And while fees are a factor, the savings on living at home would offset some, if not all, of the cost.
Dublin Business School (DBS), incorporating Portobello College, in the south city, is the largest independent college. Its courses include Business, Management, Law, Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Event Management, Information Technology, Arts, Media, Journalism, Psychology and Social Science.
Griffith College, on Dublin's South Circular Road, built its name 30 years ago on the strength of its business courses, and it subsequently branched into other areas such as Accountancy, Law, Media and Design.
A big plus at Griffith College is its modern, purpose-built campus residences, which are also open to students who are attending other colleges.
Independent Colleges, Dawson Street, is newer to the market, but has quickly established a reputation and offers courses in Business, Law, Journalism, Arts and Psychotherapy.
The American College, Merrion Square, also known as the Irish American University, has been around for many years and specialises in Business, Accounting & Finance and Behavioural Science.
Another college with a strong focus on business and marketing for undergraduates is IBAT in Swords, Co Dublin,
All of the colleges are hosting open days over the next week or so, providing potential students an opportunity to discuss options with their experts.