A new system has been announced to make it easier for students from Northern Ireland to study in the Republic.
Under new arrangements for A-level and Leaving Certificate equivalence, it will no longer be necessary to take four A-levels in order to achieve maximum points in the Republic of Ireland’s Central Applications Office (CAO) system for third-level entry.
It comes after Minister for Further Education Simon Harris accepted proposals from a Universities Ireland working group chaired by University of Galway deputy president and registrar Professor Pol O Dochartaigh.
Prof O Dochartaigh said the changes were intended to enhance cross-border mobility and are in line with the Government of Ireland’s own intentions.
The report of recommendations from the Universities Ireland working group noted only 0.6% of students in higher education in the Republic come from Northern Ireland, while in the north 2.4% of students come from the Republic.
He said: “The new system offers a fairer system than before. It makes it easier for students from the north to come to the Republic to study, to learn and to experience our wonderful, energetic university communities.
“Over time, these changes will do more, with the opportunities that we provide for young people, to create the bedrock for new relationships to be formed between schools in the north and universities here, and between young people and their families from all counties on the island.”
The report also noted that only 3% of A-level students in the north take four subjects at A-level.
The new system means NI students can use their best three A-levels, along with either a fourth A-level, an extended project or an AS subject.
This will mean that applicants can attain a score of 600 points with 3 A-levels and 1 AS, and 625 points if one of the A-levels is maths.
NI students will also be considered for a place in an Irish university by applying with 2 A-levels and 1 or 2 AS levels.
President of University of Galway and chair of Universities Ireland Council Professor Ciaran O hOgartaigh said: “Universities Ireland seeks to promote and develop co-operation in the higher education on our island.
“I am delighted to have been chair of the association as this issue was explored and solutions developed.
“University of Galway has openness as one of its core values and it is an important day for our institution that we have played such a vital role in securing new opportunities for young people from all parts of our island.
“Huge credit goes to Professor O Dochartaigh for leading the work on the recommendations and all the members of the Universities Ireland working group who helped in the development of the new system. We look forward now to implementing the proposals as soon as possible.”