MORE than 1,200 Leaving Certificate students are to sit the entrance exam for Teagasc colleges in two weeks' time, hoping to secure a place on the Level 5 agriculture course.
With less than 650 slots available at the six agricultural colleges of Kildalton, Mountbellew, Pallaskenry, Ballyhaise, Gurteen and Clonakilty this year, many students are fearful of not securing a place.
However, Tony Pettit, acting head of education at Teagasc, insisted most students would be catered for before the courses begin in September.
"Applications levels are on a par with last year, which was exceptionally high," said Mr Pettit. "But we hope to cater for everyone in the end.
"There are a certain amount of multiple applications, where students have applied to more than one college, and a large number of students will also have applied through the CAO route for other courses."
Teagasc is again seeking tenders from companies interested in teaching modules on the agriculture course, including beef production, sheep production, business organisation, crops, mechanisation and equine studies.
The Teagasc entrance exam will be held at all six colleges on Wednesday, June 27. It consists of 40 short questions, covering basic farm calculations, current affairs and general agricultural knowledge, and technical questions covering the beef, sheep, dairy and tillage sectors.
Meanwhile, demand for places on equine courses at Kildalton is exceeding supply by two to one.
More than 70 students have applied for 30-35 places this year.
Demand for the new dairy farm manager programme also looks strong, with more than 40 application packs requested.
The two-year course is based on the old farm apprenticeship scheme and includes placements at the top dairy farms in the country.