Minister Harris announces “historic” new pathway to third level outside of CAO

From September, 23 courses will be made available for students without requiring a minimum points level.

Minister Simon Harris has announced a new pathway into higher education outside of the CAO process, in what he has called “the single biggest transformation to education in decades”.

From September, 23 courses will be made available for students without requiring a minimum points level.

Under the new changes, students can enrol in a further education institution before progressing to a higher education institution to complete their fully-accredited degree. The new programmes will also include “Step-Back” awards which will provide students who do not complete their degrees with formal recognition for their completed learning. 

About 500 places will be available in the scheme, which will offer 14 different third level awards across 23 courses. The available courses include level 8 degrees in nursing, business, computer science and engineering.

Speaking today, the Minister for Further and Higher Education said: “I feel strongly that just because someone gets less points in their Leaving Cert than someone else, does not mean they should lose out on the opportunity to pursue their dream career.”

“With the launch of these courses today, we are making a significant change to how our third level system works and, most importantly, we are creating a more inclusive society in which students will have the opportunity to reach their potential without relying solely on an outdated system,” he continued. 

The announcement follows the launch of the Unified Tertiary Education policy in December, which created the National Tertiary Office (NTO) to develop joint further and higher education degree programmes.

Harris thanked the NTO, as well as the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and SOLAS for their work in delivering the changes.

NTO director Dr Fiona Maloney said: “These new and supported pathways through further and higher education help students achieve their career goals and offer several advantages including local availability of courses with guaranteed progression and the removal of geographical and financial barriers.” 

The NTO has called for the development of additional programmes by the end of the year. Information about the 23 courses is available on the NTO’s website.

Charlotte Kent

Charlotte Kent is the Co-News Editor at Trinity News and a Senior Freshman PPES Student.