An average of three applications has been received for every place in Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses in colleges of further education, it was claimed today.
The Teacher's Union of Ireland (TUI) has called for the limit on student numbers imposed by the Department of Education and Skills to be removed immediately.
"Research conducted by the TUI shows that there were over three applications for each of the 30,000 places in the sector, a massive increase on demand last year," the union said in a statement.
"Some colleges have reported that increasing numbers of the recently unemployed are looking to secure a place."
However TUI Deputy General Secretary Annette Dolan said severe restrictions on the sector still exist because of the cap on student numbers.
"We estimated this time last year that there were two applications for each place, but the ratio this year has jumped to over three for each place," she said.
"In the good times when we had almost full employment there was a cap on numbers in PLC colleges of about 31,000 places.
"It is therefore incredible that the limit has not been raised at all in the recession in which we now find ourselves," Ms Dolan added.
"The Government should and must meet the demand for places in further education colleges by funding more places in PLC colleges so that school leavers and those recently unemployed can up skill and retrain."
"We urgently request that the cap on student numbers be lifted to assist them in doing so.”