Students who did not receive their preferred option this week in Round 1 of the CAO, can consider the other possibilities and options open to them, as they await Round 2:
1. Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) and Further Education (FE) courses:
Every year thousands of students enrol on PLCs either to gain a qualification in a vocational area (i.e., Carpentry, Hairdressing), or as a stepping-stone in progressing to a Degree programme (e.g. Social studies, Electronics). Students who complete a PLC can then use the results from that course, instead of their Leaving Certificate points, to progress to a place on a degree course.
A second possibility is to complete your degree within the PLC sector. Many PLC colleges have progression arrangements with colleges and universities in Ireland and in the UK, with places reserved for PLC students. Details of PLC courses and progression routes are available here. PLC courses are also open to Leaving Cert Applied students.
Leaving Cert students often select PLC courses when they are unsure what they want to do, rather than spending three to four years studying in a particular subject area - e.g. by completing a year-long PLC course in nursing you can find out if nursing is the right career for you, before committing to a four-year degree course.
An added bonus is that PLC or FE courses are based on continuous assessment rather than a final exam. They also contain a work placement in the area the student is studying, so students can experience first-hand what life is like in that career. Colleges offer placements throughout Europe to students on PLC programmes under the Leonardo da Vinci programme. Additionally, where cost is a factor, as is increasingly the case for many households, PLCs are reasonably priced – a €200 Government levy is the minimum charge plus course fees that are significantly less expensive than a CAO college course.
2. Repeat the Leaving Certificate
The number of students repeating the Leaving Cert has decreased in recent years. The addition of the HPAT test for those wishing to study medicine has taken many high-points students out of the repeat leaving cert process. In cases where a student feels that their performance in June was not up to their normal standard for whatever reason, and affected the result they achieved, repeating is a valid consideration. Disappointed medicine applicants can also repeat the HPAT.
3. Study abroad
UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service) is the UK version of the Irish Central Applications Office system (CAO). Irish Students can apply to courses in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales through the UCAS system. Places will be offered to students based on their leaving certificate results or PLC Course or as a Mature Student.
There are many colleges in the UK where it is much easier to get into a desired course than in Ireland. (i.e. lower points/grades and may be slightly cheaper than Ireland - apart from Medicine and Denistry)
Some unsuccessful CAO applicants who are intent on pursuing a career in medicine, apply for overseas medical schools.
EUNiCAS is the European Universities Central Application Service. It enables Irish and UK students to apply to undergraduate programmes taught through English in Universities in mainland Europe.
4. The Graduate entry option
An option worth considering is to take up a different degree course and plan for graduate entry to your chosen career area. Around 50% of students go on to do post-graduate studies and you can use this as a conversion route from your initial primary degree, into the area you want to work in. In the case of medicine, graduate entry students come from a wide range of disciplines - arts and humanities, law and engineering, as well the health and biological sciences. Entry is via GAMSTAT (The Graduate Medical School Admission Test). 230 places are available in this way, which is just under 50% of the undergraduate places, but with significantly less competition.
5. Online education
Online education is an increasingly popular option in the modern world. Many learners are abandoning the traditional college experience to engage instead in technology-enhanced online learning. Courses are delivered using tools such as multimedia presentations, electronic whiteboards, downloadable worksheets and online access to tutors. The growing availability of courses at all levels, together with internationally recognised degrees from accredited colleges, both in Ireland and throughout the world, has made this option both accessible and affordable.
All colleges and universities are introducing online learning into their courses. Increasingly we have seen the advent of what we call the Moocs – mass online open courses. Moocs have resulted in novel collaborations, such as the UK’s FutureLearn, which connects its courses to the archives of the British Library, British Council and the British Museum. Institutions such as Hibernia College specialise exclusively in online education and offer accredited undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in teacher education, health sciences, business, management and computing (e.g an internationally recognised and accredited University of London degree in business, computing or management).
Another Irish company in the field of online education is Alison.com, a leading free online learning resource for basic and essential workplace skills. Alison was nominated for an international award for its work in online education at the world innovation summit for education in Qatar.