Colleges say no to points drop for entry to medicine
UNIVERSITIES have shot down government plans to cut the points required for entry into medicine courses to 450.
But it was claimed last night that the alternative scheme the colleges are proposing - which has been seen by the Irish Independent - will make only a minimal difference in the high points required.
Three years ago the Government announced that any applicant for medicine who achieved 450 points would be eligible for consideration, with places allocated on the basis of performance on a separate aptitude test.
The aim was to reduce the pressure to get into medicine, but the plans have been drastically altered by the universities.
The Irish Independent has learned that the universities have raised the bar to a minimum of 480 points. And, more importantly, they have decided to continue to recognise higher points up to 570 in the same way as in the past.
It means that where two applicants get the same score on the aptitude test the place will automatically go to the student with the higher Leaving Cert points.
This will come as a major disappointment to applicants who hoped they would be on an equal footing with academic high fliers who get 570 points or more.
The colleges have agreed to the introduction of an aptitude test and the Irish Independent has also learned that the new system will work on a 2:1 basis - in other words, the Leaving Cert results will be worth twice as much as the aptitude test scores.
to boost numbers
by aptitude test
The new system will apply from 2009 onwards for students enrolling on the two-year Leaving Cert cycle from this autumn. It has still to be formally approved by the academic councils of the universities and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
Final details have yet to be agreed with Education Minister Mary Hanafin, who wants to announce the new arrangements within the next few weeks.
It is expected that within the next few months the universities will invite tenders to run the aptitude tests, which would be designed to measure: mental abilities, including reasoning; personal skills; professional attributes necessary for a successful career in medicine
It has yet to be decided when the tests will be run and how much they will cost but they will be at least €150-€200 per applicant. One possibility is running them in September of the year prior to entry or in February.
But opposition parties claimed last night that the change will have only minimal effect and, if anything, could increase the pressure on students.
Fine Gael's Olwyn Enright said that most students who did well in the Leaving Cert were more than likely to do well on the aptitude test and there would be enough of them applying to take the bulk of the places.
Senior university sources agreed that it will be largely the same people who will get into medicine - the high fliers. "You'll get the occasional student on 480 points who gets the maximum on the aptitude test and the odd 600-pointer who does badly in the aptitude test, but they will be on the margins," said one source.
Others predicted that the grind schools will offer courses to prepare students for the aptitude tests, as has happened in the UK and Australia, where similar tests have been introduced.