Ask Brian: Will points for nursing go up this year?

Rising demand and a cap on numbers are likely to make it more difficult for applicants

PROBLEM: I dropped out of college in in October 2015 and have now decided to go back to college this September. I want to do either general or psychiatric nursing. I have chosen a number of colleges with these courses, such as NUI Galway, UL, UCC and WIT. Will points for these courses go up or down this year?

ADVICE: The number of CAO applicants who have listed nursing courses as their first choice in the initial period up to February 1st is up 11 per cent on the equivalent 2015 figure. This is not good news for those aspiring to a nursing place in September 2016. The CAO entry point's requirements for nursing have increased substantially in the past number of years, due to a decision taken within the HSE in 2009 at the height of the economic crisis.

Up to 2009, there were 1,870 undergraduate nursing places available across all 13 universities and institutes of technology that offer nursing programmes in general nursing. As part of their education trainee, nurses receive a payment when they are on placement in hospitals.

To reduce the overall cost of that payment at the height of our austerity programme, the HSE instructed these nursing schools to reduce the number of places to 1,500. This edict has remained in place to date.


It would seem to make eminent sense at this stage to rescind the 2009 directive and allow the 13 nursing schools to expand the number of places on offer to CAO applicants in September 2016.

This would have the effect of immediately absorbing the increased demand for places in the current year, as well as increasing the tiny number of places offered to students who have successfully secured distinctions in all eight modules of their Post Leaving Cert pre-nursing course.

Over many years now, up to 500 of these students have accepted places in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland nursing schools, where many of them have been fortunate to receive National Health Service (NHS) financial support in England.

Last year the UK announced that from the 2017 academic year onwards, all such NHS funding will cease and nursing and other para-medical students will have to source student loans to fund their nursing studies.

This will close off this option for many Irish PLC pre-nursing graduates, and put further pressure on Irish nursing schools to admit far more than the handful of students from the PLC sector than they currently do.

Given that the Irish hospital system is again seeking to recruit nursing graduates, and that the issue of yellow pack pay scales for young nurses is now being addressed, it is time to comprehensively address the issue of properly resourcing our nursing faculties to enable them to offer the maximum number of places possible in August this year.

If the HSE and the Minister for Health ignore this issue, the points requirements for all nursing programmes will rocket this year, crushing the aspiration of many potential nurses who will not get to work in our health service in the coming years.

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Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney is a guidance counsellor and education columnist. He contributes education articles to The Irish Times