Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
Last year, an agreement was reached with medical schools, which will see the phased introduction of a further 200 places for EU students, with over 120 already introduced.
We need more people in science and health professions. That’s why my Department and I are committed to increasing the opportunities available to learners in these areas.
Higher medical education
Close to 750 additional places were added to the higher education system in 2022–2023 across healthcare areas including medicine, nursing and pharmacy, to name a few. The Higher Education Authority also ran an expression of interest to identify options for further developing capacity in healthcare. I am working closely with government colleagues on these.
I have engaged with institutions in Northern Ireland and was pleased to announce, with Minister Donnelly, 140 additional places in nursing and 80 in allied health programmes at Queens University Belfast and Ulster University for Irish students. Separate engagements are underway to build capacity for Irish Students to study medicine in these universities from September 2024.
Diversifying healthcare education
For the first time, students can now earn a university degree outside the points system by enrolling in a further education institution before progressing to a higher education institution to complete their degree.
We should excite and encourage people to get involved and build careers in these subjects.
The purpose is to diversify entry into third-level education and ensure that a person who wishes to become a nurse or doctor isn’t locked out of the system. We must find ways to help students, so they can study and work here.
Attracting more people to STEM
In science, my Department is funding researchers through Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council. During Science Week, I announced that Ireland will be applying to join CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research), launched the Quantum 2030 strategy and announced the name of the new research funding agency, Taighde Éireann – Research Ireland.
Careers in the sciences are particularly supported through Springboard+ and the Human Capital Initiative. Since it began in 2011, over €360 million has been spent on Springboard+. Over 100,000 people have benefited through upskilling and reskilling, with 62% of courses STEM-focused.
We know we have a challenge to get the next generation excited about STEM subjects. These can often feel quite alien to people, but science, engineering and maths impact our daily lives. We should excite and encourage people to get involved and build careers in these subjects. There is a world of possibilities for those who do.