Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

700 applicants turned away from ag colleges

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

More than 700 applicants have been turned down by the six remaining agricultural colleges in the past week.

The numbers of students refused a place on a FETAC course in agriculture following the final aptitude and general knowledge tests last week has almost trebled compared to 12 months ago. Every college was over-subscribed for places, with Kildalton alone turning away more than 200 students.

"It's tough when you have to turn away two out of every three applicants," said Kildalton principal Frank Murphy.

"There's no doubt dreams are being shattered and I'm dealing with every emotion from deep disappointment to sheer frustration this week."

He believes that the entry points requirement for the higher level HETAC courses that are run by the ag colleges in conjunction with the Institutes of Technology will also go up significantly this year.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the points jump from 320 to 340 for our courses here," he said.

Gurteen's Mike Pearson said that his college would be able to cater for an extra 30-40 students if it got approval for an extra three teachers.

However, hopes are beginning to fade of a positive response from the Department of Finance to a request from Teagasc management for 16 extra teaching staff, which Teagasc claims would allowed it to enroll an additional 320 students. There has been a moratorium on Teagasc hiring extra staff since 2009.

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The focus will now be on how the Teagasc authority reacts to the offer of additional teaching resources from both the Agricultural Consultants' Association (ACA) and the Farm Relief Services (FRS) at their board meeting tomorrow.

If management can devise a way to convince the both Department of Finance and the unions within Teagasc to accept the provision of training and teaching on a modular basis, this may allow some colleges to take on more students.

Some of the key shortages are in machinery and equine teaching roles, according to Teagasc's head of education, Paddy Browne. Most ag college principals were open to the concept of FRS or the ACA providing extra teaching resources.

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