A Cork TD has criticised Munster Technological University, saying its social care students are at risk of graduating without officially recognised qualifications.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, was speaking after Higher Education Minister Simon Harris had confirmed that the Cork campus of MTU has not yet submitted an application for accreditation of its social care courses.
Under new rules, the Social Care Workers Register will open in November of 2023 and will introduce regulation to that profession for the first time in Ireland.
The register will list approved qualifications, and if a qualification is not listed, it cannot be used to apply for entry to the Social Care Workers register.
During a two-year transition period until November 2025, CORU, the regulator for health and social care professionals, will offer an alternative option for applicants “who have been practising in the profession for a minimum of two years out of the previous five on the date the register opens; [or if they] hold the relevant qualifications”.
Without recognition of MTU’s social care programmes by CORU, graduates of those courses would not in the future be able to become registered social care workers in Ireland.
The regulator told The Echo in September that it had not received any application from MTU for recognition of its Cork campus’s social care courses, but, when asked at the time, the university said preparation of its application was at an advanced stage.
In a written response to a parliamentary question from Mr Gould, Mr Harris said that his officials had, in September, written to all providers of social care programmes, including MTU, asking that they communicate to their students their position in relation to CORU application and accreditation.
“I understand that MTU have communicated with their students in relation to their programme's status,” Mr Harris said.
“MTU is currently engaged in the CORU application process and is at an advanced stage of preparation to complete the application process for its Social Care programmes.
“A final document was submitted by the North Kerry Campus in March 2022 and it is anticipated that a submission by the Cork Bishopstown Campus will be made later this year,” the minister said.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Gould said the situation was not good enough.
“What we have now is 444 students across MTU campuses who run the risk of graduating with no accreditation.
“This is at a time when the State is crying out for those qualified in social care. From education to community work to healthcare, we need social care professionals,” the Sinn Féin TD said.
“The failure by MTU to apply for this accreditation and further delays in the processing of applications is simply not good enough,” Mr Gould said.
“If resourcing is an issue then we need to see additional staff. The last thing we need to see is further emigration of graduates with so much to contribute to this state and most importantly, to their own communities,” Mr Gould said.
MTU was asked for a comment.