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Extra college places in Medicine and other hotly contested courses to be discussed ahead of next month’s CAO offers

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Extra college places in Medicine and other hotly contested areas are on the agenda for discussion ahead of next month’s CAO Round 1 offers.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris confirmed today that more places are likely to open on some high demand university courses.

He did not identify the areas where flexibility on numbers is expected to be shown, but independent.ie understands that Medicine and other health-science courses are among those under consideration.

Mr Harris said his Department was still liaising with the Department of Education and the universities “to see where will it be possible, particularly in some high demand courses, to provide more university places.”

He added: “I think it will, is the short answer; not in every area but in some areas.”

Demand for Medicine is up 6pc this year, while other health science courses have seen double digit percentage increases on 2019 applications.

The increased demand for Medicine and other traditionally high points courses probably reflects a belief on the part of Leaving Cert students that the Calculated Grades process will favour them.

And because of the upset to their final year at school and the replacement of the traditional June exams with the Calculated Grades process, the Government will seek to minimise disappointment at CAO offers time.

Mr Harris also sad he hoped school-leavers would take comfort from the assurances offered by Education Minister Norma Foley about the Calculated Grades process, following on from controversy in Scotland.

Scottish education authorities were forced into a U-turn and reinstated 125,000 grades awarded by teachers, but subsequently marked down in a national moderation process.

There was an outcry when it emerged that disadvantaged students were disproportionately affected by the marking down.

Mr Harris said the Calculated Grades system employed by the Department of Education was “sophisticated enough to address the issues that weren’t addressed in Scotland”.

He said the Department of Education was finalising its work on the Calculated Grades “and if necessary, finessing it, based on the Scottish situation."

“We cannot see any student disadvantage by virtue of the school they went to , or where they live in our country. That goes against the very ethos of what education is meant to be about.”

The minister also said he had bene talking to third-level colleges about the need for a flexible approach to renting out on campus accommodation this year.

“I have spoken to a number of the universities about trying to provide flexible options for accommodation; I know they are up for this. It is for them to decide but you could see a scenario if someone is only going to be in university for a certain number of days that, perhaps, they could rent a room for a certain number of days a week rather than having to take on a lease for a facility for an entire year. I do know that a number of universities have started that process.

I am conscious we have a mix when it comes to student accommodation; we have accommodation provided by colleges and I would expect them to be very flexible.”

Online Editors