The Cabinet will approve an extra 1,056 college places today to ease the pressure for entry to a number of CAO courses brought on by the third year of Covid-related Leaving Cert grade inflation.
They are being targeted across a range of the most sought-after disciplines including medicine, IT, architecture and construction, nursing, engineering, education and welfare.
Competition for places will increase because of the commitment to build in grade inflation to match last year’s bumper Leaving Cert results: the class of 2022 will, on average, score 60 CAO points more than if they had sat the exam in 2019.
There will be an additional 60 places in medicine, as an initial step in a five-year plan that will see the first year intake increase by 200 by 2026. In a new departure next year, universities in Northern Ireland will also open 80 places annually in medicine for CAO applicants.
The CAO has announced September 8 as the date for CAO Round 1 offers, following the release of Leaving Cert results on September 2.
The expansion of opportunities for school-leavers also includes new apprenticeship programmes, with an additional 16 due to start, including roofing and cladding, robotics and automation, and a degree programme in cyber security.
Further and Higher Education Minster Simon Harris, who is bringing the proposals on the extra college places to Cabinet, said: “After a stressful number of weeks for school-leavers, I hope today will offer some good news”.