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Colleges jump at chance to open more places in dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, medicine and veterinary


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There has been big interest among third-level colleges to a call to open new courses or expand student places in dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, medicine and veterinary.

There are plans are to increase provision in these areas in the 2024-25 or 2025-26 college years, in order to help meet skills needs in the economy.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) recently invited expressions of interest from the third-level sector and there has been a rapid response.

According to the HEA, 20 colleges have proposed to deliver new courses in one or more of the disciplines, and 19 are proposing to expand on existing courses.

The HEA said the response was nationwide, with expressions of interest in developing new courses in pharmacy and veterinary from all four provinces.

Currently, UCD is the only university offering veterinary medicine, with 85 undergraduate places that are hotly contested every year, and five places on a graduate-entry programme. With demand for veterinary school far outstripping the supply of places, scores of Irish school-leavers go abroad every year to study for their degree.

A concerted push for another university to offer veterinary medicine has come from a group of vets in Munster and even before the HEA initiative, University College Cork, and the University of Limerick had expressed interest informally.

HEA CAO Dr Alan Wall, said the authority was currently reviewing applications with a view to moving to the second stage of the assessment process, which will involve review by an expert panel.

It is expected that the HEA will be in contact with the institutions shortly.

Welcoming the response, he said it was vital that the higher education sector responded effectively to evolving national priorities and skills needs, and the range and high standard of expressions of interest submitted reflected a commitment to meeting societal needs.

“The health of the system is evident in the strength and variety of submissions received, with institutions illustrating their capacity to deliver new and additional places,” Dr Wall said.

This initiative is separate from other moves to increase capacity from next year on other health-related courses such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and social care, where there are shortages of qualified staff.

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