THE much-criticised points system for third-level college entry may be abolished by as early as 2014.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that in what was described as "part of a major reform agenda" one of the priorities of the new Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is to abolish the points system as swiftly as possible.
In a major signal of intent at a private meeting last week, Mr Quinn told the heads of Ireland's seven major universities to devise an alternative system of admission to replace the much-criticised points system.
In an indication of the speed with which Mr Quinn intends to move, the new minister bluntly told the university heads that he wanted to hear about "concrete alternatives by September".
It is believed Mr Quinn also made it clear that when it came to the universities' proposals he did not want "some wishy washy thing involving studies and further reviews".
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, one educational source said it was "a real put up or shut up moment".
"The university bigwigs are very good at telling us to reform this and do that. Colleges have been complaining about the points system for years. Now Quinn has thrown down the gauntlet and given them the chance to devise their own system."
In spite of the minister's desire to move swiftly, senior education sources warned that "the nature of the education cycle, particularly at Leaving Certificate level, means that it takes a minimum of two years to secure such a change".
The source also conceded that should Mr Quinn's plans receive a smooth passage from the education partners, those students who started the Leaving Certificate course this year may be the last to be selected under the current system.
The antiquated system was epitomised by the comment of one senior education source that in terms of selecting talent it was "an old Volkswagen struggling along on a motorway designed for Ferraris".
One of the most searing criticisms of the points system came from former Intel chief executive Craig Barrett, who warned that the failure of the system to produce the sort of innovative thinkers that can drive a smart economy meant the Ireland of 20 years ago was, in terms of the quality of its graduates, a far more attractive place for Intel to invest in.