A NUMBER of social care students in MTU Cork intend to ask for a transfer to the university’s Tralee campus after MTU Kerry was granted accreditation for its social care courses while Cork’s remain officially unrecognised.
However, the university has said that for social care students to graduate from MTU Kerry with officially recognised qualifications, they would need to have completed their full third-level course there.
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.
Approval of social care courses is determined by Coru, the regulator for health and social care professionals.
MTU Cork and MTU Kerry both applied for Coru approval for their social care courses early in 2022. However, it is understood that MTU Cork subsequently withdrew its initial application, before applying again for accreditation in December 2022.
A spokesperson for Coru has told The Echo that its approval process is “dependent on each education provider demonstrating how their programme meets the minimum standards set by Coru”.
“Where this is clearly evidenced, Coru’s programme approval process typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete”.
MTU Kerry’s application to Coru was submitted in March 2022, with the approval process taking 12 months.
Without recognition of MTU Cork’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. It is understood that MTU Cork currently has approximately 200 social care students.
During a two-year transition period until November 2025, Coru 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”.
This means that until such time as MTU Cork’s social care courses are recognised by Coru, its graduates have to work for two years in the field under what is called a “grandparenting” process.
With the grandparenting process closing in November 2025, third-year social care students graduating from MTU Cork this year would have to secure work in the social care field to accrue two years’ worth of experience by November 2025.
However, if MTU is not Coru-approved by October 2024, then students who graduate next year would not have time to work for two years in the field before the November 2025 deadline.
Coru’s spokesperson said: “Coru must ensure that every education course delivers upon its minimum standards. It is essential to ensure the protection of the public that every registered social care worker has received an appropriate education.
“Upon the conclusion of the grandparenting period (November 2025) any individual who does not hold a Coru-approved qualification will not be eligible to apply to the register and use the title Social Care Worker in Ireland until such time as their programme is approved or they obtain an alternative approved qualification.”
One second-year student in Cork’s social care course told The Echo she and several other students intend to apply for a transfer to MTU Kerry to complete their course there.
“There’s a good few of us who would be thinking we have nothing to lose by applying for a transfer,” she said.
“Like, it’s madness that if we had gone to Kerry day one we’d be heading for a qualification now. Instead we’re still in limbo in Cork.”
A spokesperson for MTU Cork said the university engages “constructively with any student who wishes to discuss transferring courses across the university” but it appeared to say social care students could not do so.
“The existing Coru approval for MTU’s Social Care courses on our Kerry campus require[s] students to have completed the full programme to be eligible for registration,” they said.
An informed source told The Echo that, now MTU Kerry’s social care courses have been approved, MTU Cork’s social care course is “the only major course in the country not covered by Coru”.
The source asked what would become of MTU Cork social care students who graduate in October 2024 if the university’s Cork campus has not by then secured Coru accreditation.
“The grandparenting process closes in November 2025. If MTU Cork is not Coru-approved in 2024, how are those graduates supposed to get two years’ experience in one year?”
MTU Cork’s spokesperson said: “MTU remains fully committed to the Coru programme approval process and we are continuing to work with Coru to achieve approval for the BA in Social Care Work on our Cork campus as soon as possible.”