Hold your tongue: Is a European language a third-level requirement?
One of the most common questions both students and parents have when considering subject choice is whether or not a student must take a European language at Leaving Certificate in order to progress to third level.
Many people wrongly believe that if a language is not chosen by students, they will not be able to attend university or any third-level institution. However this is not the case.
Some schools allow students not to take a language at Leaving Certificate, and many students who do not enjoy languages or find them difficult are happy not to choose them for Leaving Cert. However, the decision to drop a language should not be taken lightly. Not having a language on your Leaving Certificate can greatly impact on choices in the future.
For the majority of third-level institutions it is not necessary to have a European language in order to meet the matriculation requirement. At Trinity College Dublin students are required to pass English and another language and Maths or Latin.
The matriculation requirements for DCU are Maths and English or Irish. University Limerick requires students to have English, Maths and Irish or another language. Therefore, if a student does not take a foreign language at Leaving Certificate they should still meet the requirements for these universities as long as they take Irish or have an official Irish exemption.
Institutes of Technology generally expect students to have passes in English and MathS for matriculation so not choosing a language should have no impact on a candidate's ability to attend one of these institutions. Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) colleges also do not require students to have taken a language.
The NUI universities, which include University College Cork (UCC), NUI Galway, University College Dublin (UCD) and NUI Maynooth, all require students to have passes at ordinary level English and Irish in order to matriculate.
However, students must also pass a third language to take courses in the Arts, Human Science, Law, Social Science, Commerce, Medicine and Health Sciences and some other degrees. Students are not required to pass a language for entry to engineering or Agricultural Science.
The impact of all of the above for a student's course choices is, that while not choosing a language will not affect entry to the majority of third-level institutions, it will restrict the amount of courses they may choose from as they will be excluded from the majority of courses in the four NUI universities.
If a student has an Irish exemption they may apply for an exemption from the requirement to present Irish as a matriculation subject from their chosen institution. They may also apply to NUI for an exemption from the requirement to take a third language.
All Level 8 courses require students to achieve two higher level C3s at higher level and four ordinary D3s. while Trinity College Dublin requires students to achieve C3s at higher level and three ordinary D3s.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co. Dublin.