Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue says the Minister must begin engaging meaningfully with the HEA and the country’s universities if the practice of inflated points is to be brought under control.  The controversial system sees colleges offering more specialised courses, many of which have fewer than 20 places, in order to increase competition and keep the CAO points artificially high.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “This is an extremely serious issue that is affecting hundreds of students across the country.  Universities are effectively using the points system as a marketing tool to make their courses appear more competitive and elusive, and in the process of doing this are shutting eligible students out of their programmes.

“The universities have never made a secret of the practice, and its prevalence has perpetuated the fallacy that high points courses are more prestigious, which is not always the case.  This has exacerbated the points race and has heaped even more pressure on already stressed-out Leaving Cert students.

“The Education Minister has made noises about tackling the situation, but the reality is that very little has been done.  A working group has been set up, but some of the universities are more than reluctant to take the recommendations on board.  In fact, Trinity College and NUI Galway have failed to reduce the number of honours degree courses they offer. Others have only made token efforts.  Minister Jan O’Sullivan needs to get serious about this issue – students’ future careers are being affected by what is no more than a marketing ploy.

“New nationals guidelines should be examined and efforts to broaden third level entry options need to be considered. Apprenticeships and traineeships, which have stagnated under this Government, need to be seen a credible alternative for students, and there needs to be a move away from the restricted emphasis on university education as the preferred third level option.

“Minister O’Sullivan’s record on student welfare has been laid bare over the last few months, with an accommodation crisis spiralling out of control, and the points system being callously controlled by vested interests, the Minster who should be the students’ champion is leaving them horribly exposed”.