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‘Obligation to support the Covid generation’

There is a “real obligation” to support the “Covid generation”, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said.

His comments come after a new report which shows an increasing number of students leaving third level education prematurely.

The rising level of drop outs are in line with other countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Minister Harris said but added, the most common reason cited for dropping out is “personal and family”.

The findings are based on data from 2021 and 2022, Mr Harris added, and he highlighted that these are students spent the final years of their school lives at home, carrying out their studies primarily online.

He said: “There’s a real obligation on us as a society, and as education sector, to say, how do we best support this generation, this Covid generation?”

Minister Harris has announced funding for 25 additional medical places which will be made available for qualifying students from Ireland or Northern Ireland in Queens University Belfast from September 2024.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said students who avail of this Government funding to study medicine at Queens University Belfast must agree to carry out their internship in the Republic of Ireland.

A further 25 places will be made available in September 2025 bringing the total number of additional places available to 50.

These places will be co-funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the Department of Health.

Students who take up these places will pay the same student contribution rate as their counterparts studying in any of the six medical schools in Ireland and will commit to applying to take up a position in the HSE as an intern at the end of their studies.

Minister Harris said: “This is a really exciting partnership between the Government and Queen’s University in Belfast, recognising the importance of increasing healthcare graduates across both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “I am delighted to see the provision of additional student places in medicine in Queen’s University Belfast.

“Increasing the future supply of health care workers is critical to addressing the workforce needs of our health service. These 50 additional student places will increase the number of doctors which is an important step towards meeting future health workforce needs.”

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