Friday 19 July 2019

Time for colleges to slow down points race

Some universities are making strides in reducing the number of choices and instead offer entry into broad-based first-year programmes with the option of specialising in second year, when students are more familiar with their chosen discipline Stock photo: Depositphotos
Some universities are making strides in reducing the number of choices and instead offer entry into broad-based first-year programmes with the option of specialising in second year, when students are more familiar with their chosen discipline Stock photo: Depositphotos

There are far too many college courses on offer through the Central Applications Office. And it can often be hard to distinguish between them. How many of us could tell the difference between computer and communications engineering, computer engineering in mobile systems, and computer applications? Yet we expect school-leavers to know when they fill in their CAO form.

The bewildering range is not confined to engineering. If the Olympics prompts a student to go for a sports career, they will 'only' have three-dozen courses to choose from.

The case for reducing the number of CAO options is unanswerable. Twenty years ago applicants had around 540 courses to choose from. That number had more than doubled to almost 1,300 in 2011 when then Education Minister Ruairi Quinn told the colleges it was time to call a halt. Far from slowing down, the number has increased to more than 1,400 this year.

Some universities are making strides in reducing the number of choices and instead offer entry into broad-based first-year programmes with the option of specialising in second year, when students are more familiar with their chosen discipline. Other universities are slower to change.

However, the slowest of all are the institutes of technology. In fact, they have significantly increased the number of courses on offer - by 130. Two out of every three courses on offer through the CAO is now in an Institute of Technology. The escalation in the number of courses in the technology sector is unfair on students. Many of these courses have very few students, some of whom quickly discover that they are in the wrong specialism.

Broader entry would benefit not just the students but the institutes as well.

Two wrongs don't make it right to break the law

Insurance fraud is a major problem in this country. Companies are right to take action to tackle fraudulent claims which add significantly to premiums for honest consumers. But they are wrong to turn a blind eye to private investigators (PIs) breaking the law on their behalf to deal with the problem.

Information obtained by the Data Protection Commission reveals some private investigators have been using illegal vehicle-tracking devices to monitor certain customers' movements. The disclosure by Assistant Commissioner Tony Delaney that some PIs are going into people's driveways to attach these devices is shocking.

This is not the first time a small number of PIs have given their colleagues in the industry a bad name. Two years ago it was disclosed they were using illegal tactics to obtain confidential details about credit union customers from State agencies like the Department of Social Protection.

That scandal rocked the credit union sector and led to a number of successful prosecutions by the Commission.

But it seems that some PIs are still engaging in the practice, this time on behalf of insurance companies.

Mr Delaney and his team will now be investigating access to databases held by various state bodies. It is imperative that they give him full co-operation.

There should be no tolerance of investigators either using tracking devices or accessing personal details from State databases illegally.

The insurance companies should sit up and take notice by checking the bona fides of the PIs working for them.

Irish Independent

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