It's time for the NUI to drop the third language requirement
In myopinion... Billy Ryle
A new grading system and new CAO common points scale will be used for the first time in this year's Leaving Certificate exams. The old ABC-style grades, 14 each at higher and ordinary level, have been abolished in favour of eight H (higher) and eight O (ordinary) grades. The change to the grading system is also bringing change to the CAO points scale.
These changes have led to a certain revision of the minimum entry requirements and specific course requirements for third level colleges. What a pity the higher education institutions (HEIs) didn't see fit to avail of this timely opportunity to synchronise their minimum entry requirements and make life much easier for long-suffering students.
Transition year and Junior Cert students throughout the country, who are currently considering and selecting their Leaving Cert subjects, are particularly mesmerised by the maze of varying language entry requirements for colleges. Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Dublin City University (DCU), University of Limerick (UL) and the institutes of technology (ITs) have always had reasonable language requirements for college entry.
On the other hand, the three languages required as a minimum entry requirement by the National University of Ireland (NUI) cause considerable discomfort and uncertainty for many students as they attempt to select their seven senior cycle subjects.
The NUI, with four constituent universities and five associated colleges - University College Dublin (UCD), University College Cork (UCC), National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), Maynooth University (MU), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Shannon College of Hotel Management, Institute of Public Administration (IPA) and St Angela's College, Sligo - offers more courses in the CAO system than any of its rivals.
Many students, whose aptitudes are non-linguistic, are reluctant not to take a third language, such as French or German, at Leaving Cert level lest they disqualify themselves from many NUI courses.
A student in this situation who is unable to maintain a higher level standard in languages is often forced to drop back to ordinary level in one or more of his/her languages. This considerably reduces a candidate's potential total CAO points score and may result in the loss of a preferred college course.
Down through the years, many students made a strategic decision to replace a third language with a subject in which they were academically strong and which was more relevant to their career aspirations. Their course choices were then focussed on the non-NUI colleges. Some years ago, in a reaction to the potential loss to other colleges of many good students in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses, the NUI dropped the third language requirement for entry into these faculties.
Towards the end of January, the Senate of the National University of Ireland (NUI) approved the proposal to drop the third language requirement for MU's business, accounting, finance and law degree courses with immediate effect. Do not be surprised if other NUI colleges respond sooner rather than later. Data from the CAO last week on the breakdown of this year's applications by discipline showed Maynooth enjoyed a 5pc rise in first preference applications, including a 32pc rise in applications for its range of business courses.
Students must present results in six Leaving Cert subjects to the CAO, although it is common practice to take seven. Irish, English and maths are compulsory subjects for most students. However, in a very skills-based economy, a student should be entitled to select the four optional subjects that are most suited to his/her personal career profile.
It's due time for the NUI to accept that it's no longer tenable or justifiable to require college applicants to present three languages for entry to its arts, commerce, law and health science faculties.
In my opinion, the NUI should drop the third language requirement with immediate effect, so that students advancing to senior cycle can make a more personal- appropriate choice of Leaving Cert subjects.
Billy Ryle is a career guidance counsellor and author of Structure Of Third Level Education In Ireland With Particular Reference To Entry Requirements, Application Procedures And The Points System (M.Ed, NUIG)