Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements
I raised this Commencement matter because the issue in question is coming to the fore. Many students, educationalists and teachers in the North are noticing and falling foul of a particular anomaly where there is a difference in the recognition of the A-level grading system by institutions in the South. This has only been exacerbated by Brexit. Students are genuinely concerned about their ability to access courses in the South. Will the A-level grades they achieve in the North be treated with the limited degree of equality they have currently? Will they instead fall victim to Brexit and be put at a greater disadvantage?
Several teachers and academic institutions have raised another issue concerning the A-level PE subject in the North. It is not accepted by universities in the South for entry into courses at degree level, including, rather strangely, sports courses. That is a bit like A-level history not being accepted for a history degree course. Over the past several years, the top academic schools in the North have put a large emphasis on the importance of PE, not just in a young person's personal development but also as a significant science-based subject. A-level PE is recognised as a core subject by Queen's University Belfast and other major universities in the North for entry into a medical degree.I am sure the Minister of State will appreciate that these anomalies are quite difficult and cause students problems. I look forward not only to hearing the Minister of State's response today but working with her, her Department and her officials in trying to rectify some of these issues.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir as ucht a cheist. Déanfaidh mé gach iarracht é a fhreagairt.
I thank Senator Ó Donnghaile for raising this issue of entry requirements for students from Northern Ireland wishing to study in one of our higher education institutions, HEIs. I may need extra time on the follow-up question, especially concerning the PE question the Senator asked.
In seeking entry to a higher education institution, a student must ensure that he or she meets the basic subject and level requirements for entry, first, to the institution and, second, to the course of study. It is only then that the points achieved through the Central Applications Office, CAO, are used to determine the allocation of places.
On the first part of the Senator's question, which focuses on the points system for applications through the CAO, the process for A-level students applying for entry to a HEI is similar to a candidate sitting the leaving certificate. A-level applicants are scored on the basis of their best four results. Up to 180 points are available for each of the first three results, with up to 60 additional points available for the fourth subject. For universities, those results must include four A-levels from a single sitting or three advanced GCEs A-level and an advanced subsidiary GCE AS-level in a different subject from the same or preceding year.
For institutes of technology, other than Dundalk IT, and other HEIs offering Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, higher education and training awards, applicants are scored on the basis of a maximum of four different subject results at A-level or AS-level in a single year or a combination of A-level results from a single year with the best AS results from the same or preceding year. Dundalk IT provides for the scoring of four subjects but offers a maximum of 175 points for each of the first three subjects, with a maximum of 75 points for the fourth subject.
The maximum number of points that can be achieved is 600. This is comparable to the maximum points achievable by a student undertaking six subjects in the leaving certificate. An additional 25 bonus points are available for both leaving certificate students and A-level students achieving certain minimum grades in mathematics subjects. This gives a maximum possible score of 625 for both A-level and leaving certificate candidates. Further information on the CAO process is available on the CAO website and in the CAO handbook.
On the second part of the Senator's question and the entry requirements set down by the HEls, for the four National University of Ireland, NUI, constituent universities, UCD, UCC, Maynooth University and NUI Galway, the Senate of the NUI determines basic matriculation requirements. Each university may also prescribe additional requirements, either generally or in respect of particular faculties.
Outside the NUl constituent universities ,Trinity College Dublin, the University of Limerick and Dublin City University all require six distinct recognised subjects at GCSE or advanced GCE A-level. Generally, at least two of these must be at a GCE A-level C grade or above. Trinity College currently excludes the GCSE or advanced GCE A-level subjects of physical education, general studies and media studies from the subjects recognised for matriculation and eligibility for points accumulation under the CAO process.While physical education is not currently an examination subject at leaving certificate level, the roll-out of an examinable version of the curriculum is under active consideration within the Department. Higher education institutions are autonomous bodies. Management of their academic affairs and issues relating to the delivery of courses, including entry requirements, are matters for individual institutions.
If the Senator wishes to ask me more about the PE questions, I am very willing to answer.
I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Minister of State. I appreciate the forthright way in which the Minister of State gave me those details and I may write to her for further information. While appreciating that the institutions are autonomous bodies, it seems surreal that an A Level in PE is not recognised in applying for certain subjects, particularly when it is now much more science-based than what we would have understood it to be in the past. The Minister of State has provided useful information. We should look at this further and use the Minister's good offices to engage with the further education institutions about how they open their doors in a much more inclusive way across the Thirty-two Counties and beyond to ensure that more people can avail of their first-class education.
I am keen to answer the specific question regarding physical education. In assessing subjects from the GCE or GCSE UK qualifications for the purposes of NUI matriculation, PE is a recognised subject. However, it may not be combined with sports science for the purposes of matriculation. Trinity College Dublin has determined that the content of certain courses does not meet its requirement for entry. These are physical education, general studies and media studies. The recognition of subjects for matriculation purposes is reviewed regularly as changes are made to the A Level curriculum. From 2018, four new subjects will be added to the approved list for admissions to NUI constituent universities and Trinity College Dublin, namely, moving digital arts, digital technology, environmental technology, and software systems development. While the higher education institutions have ensured to the greatest extent possible that the points system provides a transparent basis for access through the CAO in terms of specific entry requirements, all students are advised to check the individual higher education institution and course requirements.