Non-school leavers take up 33% of college places

ALMOST one in three college places were taken up by non-Leaving Certificate students this autumn, as mature students and those with other college qualifications secure a growing proportion of third-level vacancies.

The statistic emerge from an analysis of a Central Applications Office (CAO) breakdown of how almost 40,000 places were distributed at more than 40 third-level institutions up to last week’s final acceptance stage.

Of these, 27,770 were taken by students who sat the Leaving Certificate this year, representing just under 70% of the total places accepted. Among these are a few hundred mature students who may also have sat the exam last June, including those taking just one or two subjects.

This group of applicants aged 23 or above account for the largest group outside the school-leaving category, more than one in 10 of those who accepted a third level place. The 4,178 mature students who took up a college offer represent just under half of those who applied this year.

A little under 4,000 people who had previously enrolled in third level, including those who did not complete their course, also took up a college place and almost exactly half of such applicants were successful.

The success rate was higher again among people applying through the CAO with a qualification from the Further Education and Training Awards Council. Students with these Post Leaving Certificate and other courses also make up almost one of every 10 people beginning undergraduate courses this autumn.

“These figures show that there are greater choices and more alternative routes for people to get a third level qualification,” said Institute of Guidance Counsellors spokesman Michael Gleeson.

“It’s not that there are fewer places for school leavers, they are competing for more than 1,100 college courses this year, up from just 69 in 1977. There are also fewer Leaving Certificate students in recent years, although the points race is far from over on high demand courses, particularly in areas like medicine and health professions,” said Mr Gleeson.

Almost 66,000 people applied for places in universities, institutes of technology, teacher training colleges and private higher education centres up to last July’s final deadline. The CAO processed 39,840 acceptances this year, with most places offered after Leaving Certificate results were issued to students in mid-August.

College admission staff select those with the highest exam grades from applicants to each course but also reserve places for mature students and those in other categories.

Of almost 54,000 Leaving Certificate students this year, 41,190 applied for a college place through the CAO.

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