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Alternative third level route adds more programmes

A second tranche of third level degree courses that do not require students to apply through the CAO points system has been announced.

The new courses will begin this September in areas such as nursing, business, engineering, construction, and health sciences.

They will see more students starting out in a further education college before moving on to a university setting to complete their degrees.

Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris said the courses were aimed at ensuring that points and the stress associated with the system did not determine education choices or career opportunities.

“I hope this sends a clear message to young people considering options after school, you can be a nurse, engineer, work in ICT or construction without worrying about your points,” Mr Harris said.

“These courses offer an alternative to the CAO system,” he said.

“Last year, we launched the first degree courses outside the points system. Today, we double the offering for students,” he added.

Applications are open from today for a number of the programmes, with further programmes to be added in the coming weeks.

The deadline for CAO applications is today at 5pm.

The new programmes are being offered in further education institutions all over the country.

Details on all courses open for application are available at

There are plans to develop more programmes of this kind in time for September 2025, and for expansion of the initiative into the traditional university and specialist college sectors.

The Department of Further and Higher Education has said that the programmes have been proposed by the University of Limerick, University of Galway, the National College of Art and Design, Mary Immaculate College and University College Cork.

The proposed programmes will also be in areas of strategic skills needed such as Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sustainability and Early Childhood Education.

Director of the National Tertiary Office Dr Fiona Maloney said the new kind of degree route supported the diversification of professions, addressed the geographical gap in Higher Education delivery, and removed the stress of the points race.

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