Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

TDs and priests in Ag college lobbying

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Up to 250 applicants languish on waiting lists in the hope that they will get a chance to study agriculture full time.

The volume of applications is at a level many colleges have not experienced since the 1980s.

Some principals have admitted to coming under huge pressure from parents, parish priests, and even TDs, lobbying for students who are seeking places in agricultural colleges around the country.

Colleges report several reasons for the spike in interest, but one of the main reasons given is this year's huge jump in points requirements to get on to agriculture courses at degree level.

The extent of the points hike was highlighted by the entry requirements to study agriculture in Dundalk Institute of Technology, which jumped by nearly 20pc, or 50 points.

These hikes created a spill-over from students who failed to gain entry to these higher-level courses into Level 5 courses.

Unfortunately for some, they now find themselves on waiting lists, since most Level 5 courses were already full by the time the Central Applications Office offers were made.

Paddy Browne, head of education with Teagasc, attributed the rise in demand to a greater appreciation of the value of the agriculture sector, as well as an overhang from the last decade.

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"We're still dealing with a carryover from the boom years, when some students put off getting their agricultural qualifications," explained Mr Browne.

Mountbellew College in Galway has at least 40 students on a waiting list for its one-year Level 5 course (Green Cert).

However, its administration office said it had turned away another 60 inquiries during the past month.

Pallaskenry College in Limerick had no waiting list last year for its Level 5 course, but this year it had 30 students on a waiting list for the same course that started yesterday.

However, the college principal John McCarthy stated he has a bigger problem on his Degree in Agriculture programme. Based on traditional acceptance rates of 50pc in previous years, offers were made to 70 students who got the required points in their Leaving Cert.

Mr McCarthy said 75pc of offers were accepted, so he now has to figure out how to accommodate 54 students on a campus designed to cater for 35.

Ballyhaise College in Cavan reported that it had 50 on its waiting list for the Level 5 course.

Mr Browne said he hoped that students who failed to gain entry to full-time courses in agriculture would look at the option of part-time, 30-month courses, which are run by Teagasc advisory staff around the country.

Irish Independent