NUI Galway Deputy President calls for better entry routes to Southern Universities for A Level students

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Registrar and Deputy President of NUI Galway
Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Registrar and Deputy President of NUI Galway

As universities in the Republic of Ireland begin to look at ways of opening up access to third level places for Northern Irish students, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, newly appointed Registrar and Deputy President of the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway), has voiced his support for a review of the current admissions criteria, with a view to encouraging more students in the North to move South.

Commenting on the Irish University Association’s decision to initiate a review of admissions criteria for Northern Irish students, Professor Ó Dochartaigh said: “I welcome the universities’ decision here in the Republic to review the current admissions arrangements for A Level students, which make it difficult for many Northern Irish students to consider university in the South as a realistic option. I look forward to seeing a more equitable admissions process emerge as a result of the review”.

“A diverse student population greatly enhances the learning experience for all third-level students. Bringing students together from different backgrounds and learning experiences is advantageous not just for the universities, but for society as a whole.  I believe that changes to the system will benefit both the North and the South”, he added.

At present,  almost 30 percent of first-year undergraduates from Northern Ireland go to study in England, Scotland and Wales, while only 1.3% go to the Republic. Numbers have fallen since the introduction in 2005 of changes to grade equivalences between A Levels and the Leaving Certificate, which have had the effect of making it more difficult for A Level candidates to gain entry to universities in the South.

With an A Level A grade valued at 150 CAO points, students gaining three As could achieve a maximum of 450 CAO points, compared to a maximum of 600 points for Leaving Certificate candidates. As the majority of Northern Irish students study three, not four, A Levels, the current situation effectively rules A Level students out of a wide range of popular, high points courses in the Republic.

While many Northern Irish students go to university in the UK , the introduction of tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year in England and Wales means that the Republic, where fees will be €3,000 in autumn 2015, has become a more affordable option.

Professor Ó Dochartaigh, who has recently joined NUI Galway from the University of Ulster, has seen at first hand the growing interest from Northern Irish students:  “At NUI Galway, we are seeing increasing interest in our courses from students in the North. They know that they will get a good education here but without the escalating tuition costs now associated with universities in England and Wales”.

If the current review delivers much-anticipated changes to the admissions criteria, the imbalance in cross-border student traffic may finally begin to be addressed.

Ends

Keywords: Press

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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