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University entry requirements must be revised to support job creation

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, has warmly welcomed the Action Plan for Jobs and is today (Monday) commending the Government for recognising the importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) as a means of boosting employment.

“Qualifications in STEM subjects have a strong link with multinational companies. The link between STEM subjects and job creation raises the question as to whether entry requirements into a number of Irish universities need to be revised to give credence to the role STEM subjects can play in making Ireland the best small country in which to do business.

“Currently the entry requirements for NUI affiliated universities and the University of Limerick is to have six subjects, including English, Irish and a third language. In light of the importance attached to STEM subjects, as highlighted in the Action Plan for Jobs, I firmly believe that these universities need to revise their entry requirements by placing less emphasis on having a minimum of three languages and instead include maths as a required subject.

“The fact that Irish is considered a core subject for entry into these universities, while similar importance is not placed on maths, should be addressed. I would advocate the model used by Dublin City University, which includes an entry requirement for maths with a second core subject in either English or Irish. The entry requirements for Trinity College Dublin also require a pass in maths.

“I was recently approached by a parent whose daughter excelled at maths but because she was weak at Irish, and feared she may fail her Leaving Certificate exam in this subject, concerns were raised that she would be unable to pursue her desired course in university. We cannot allow talented students like her be denied access to their course of choice because of out-dated entry requirements. Despite the current economic situation and unemployment crisis, there remains a skills shortage. Employers are having difficulties in finding suitably qualified and experienced people in the areas of ICT, engineering, science, finance, health, and sales. Skills shortages in the STEM disciplines are particularly acute.

“I was delighted to learn that 280 jobs were recently announced by HP for their Kildare and Galway plants. To ensure that further job creation continues, we need to rethink our emphasis on promoting STEM subjects and increaseing the number of graduates from these disciplines.”