UCD students' union has claimed the competition for higher education has now reached an “alarming level” as entry requirements for a course at the university exceeded 600 points for the first time ever.
The minimum entry requirements for economics and finance at University College Dublin (UCD) surpassed 600 points, attracting a cut-off of 601 points.
In order for a student to have received a place on the course following the first round of offers from the Central Applications Office (CAO), they must have achieved 90% or more in six higher-level Leaving Cert examinations including higher-level maths.
“Seeing minimum entry requirements exceeding 600 points for any course is incredibly concerning,” said Joanna Siewierska, president of UCD students’ union.
"It is disappointing to see that such a limited system of assessing our young people's talents and abilities remains the main gateway for entering higher education."
She said success in the leaving cert now requires rote learning skills and the ability to work under immense pressure.
"There is very limited scope for repeating exams in the case of personal circumstances and for capturing any other skills and abilities of young people," she added.
Points this high will "undoubtedly discourage" many bright and talented students from even applying, according to Ms Siewierska.
"We need to ask ourselves if we are really getting the right people for the right courses.
"Even those who achieve the highest points are pressured to apply for courses where they can 'spend' their points rather than choosing a course they are passionate about."
Ms Siewierska said a reform of the Leaving Cert and CAO systems is desperately needed.
She also called for greater investment in higher education to allow for more places and more diverse entry routes into higher education.
Meanwhile, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has called on students and their parents to join a national movement campaigning for affordable third-level education.
"This Government has made no effort to recognise the crisis that has continued to unfold within its term," said USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick.
"Prices of accommodation have risen to the point of blatant unaffordability, the SUSI grant no longer reflects the cost of student life between rent, groceries, books and bills, and our students are paying the second-highest fees in the EU after the UK.
"The people in charge of our education system have put barriers in place to make education inaccessible and have made no effort to hide it.
"It's time to break the barriers."
The USI will be meeting with local elected representatives, TD's and Senators in the coming months ahead of action in Dublin in early October, Ms Fitzpatrick added.