THEY are courses that helped put Irish graduates on the world stage, literally, and now they are under threat.
From September, students entering further education colleges are facing the loss of choice in specialist programmes, or modules, because of cutbacks.
Courses in animation and music at the famous Ballyfermot College of Further Education are among those that could be affected.
Ballyfermot's hall of fame includes Oscar winners, animator Richie Bateman and cinematographer Daniel Katz, and singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey.
Elsewhere in Dublin, courses in fashion and design could close or lose modules, while veterinary nursing programmes in Cork and Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, are also among those under threat.
Colleges of further education are best known for their Post-Leaving Certificate (PLCs) courses in a broad range of areas including social care, computing, business, hospitality, sports, science and creative arts.
The colleges, which mainly operate under the auspice of vocational education committees (VECS), are set to lose the equivalent of 200 full-time teaching posts from September because of a budget decision to increase the student-teacher ratio from 17:1 to 19:1.
Colleges and lecturers are fighting back and the Dublin City branch of the Teachers' Union of Ireland yesterday held a protest outside the Dail.
Kevin Devine, deputy principal at the Ballyfermot College, said the cuts would have a devastating effect.
He said in Ballyfermot three-quarters of its courses were in the creative arts. "Student places will be lost, courses will be lost, and all programmes are being threatened with loss of modules, which would greatly diminish the depth of programmes."
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has invited the VECs to submit impact statements on the effect of the cuts.