Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said this year’s Leaving Certificate students will not miss out on CAO offers despite the delay in the date for results.
The CAO and universities have all agreed to accommodate the later timeline, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland after it was announced on Wednesday that results would not be issued until September 3rd.
Universities will have to reserve a proportion of on campus accommodation for first year students, he added, as they had done last year.
“We will work with Leaving Cert students to ensure they have a good college experience,” the Minister said.
Mr Harris said discussions had already been held with UCAS (the UK equivalent of the CAO) to change their deadline, and he had also held talks with his European colleagues about Irish students applying to European universities.
He pointed out there had been 84,500 applications to the CAO this year, which was the highest ever, but only 300 of the applicants were Leaving Cert students. The remainder were mature students and what he described as the “Brexit-Covid effect” which included 5,000 European students applying to attend university in the State.
There would be 4,500 new college places, he said, including 184 additional nursing places, noting there had been a big increase in interest in journalism and media courses along with science.
“We are trying to match supply to demand.”
Mr Harris said every year the number of applicants to the CAO increased and that not all would get their first choice.
There was more to higher education than colleges, as PLC courses and apprenticeships also offered excellent pathways, he said.
Mr Harris reiterated plans to get people back on campuses, anticipating staff will have been “overwhelmingly” vaccinated by September.
In two weeks there will be an announcement regarding details for the return to campus, he added, with a return of lectures, tutorials, clubs and societies all on the card,
Large scale lectures would be a challenge, he said, but added he would like to see opportunities for blended learning such as recorded lectures which had to be an advantage.
Earlier on the same programme, Jim Miley, director general of the Irish Universities Association said the delay in this year’s Leaving Cert results will mean third level institutions will have to defer the arrival of first year students to the third week in September.
Mr Miley said the hope was there would be widespread maximisation of students on campus, but warned the extra places being put on stream this year would put pressure on an already overstretched system.
The number of permanent staff at third level was limited by the Government - in 2008 it was 19,000 when there were 155,000 students, that figure was the same last year when there were 213,000 students, he added.
Some universities hired additional staff funded by commercial revenues, the issue was being addressed in a piecemeal manner and there is a need to close the gap, said Mr Miley.