14,000 free Higher Education places to help people get back to work and up-skill

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD announced the release of over 14,000 free or subsidised Higher Education places on October 27th.

The initiative was launched under the Jobs Stimulus package to help people get back to work, upskill workers, and build economic confidence. The decision will create over €30 million worth of free and subsidised places. The funding will create 11,597 places on short, modular courses, and 2,555 postgraduate places.

Minister Harris outlined that the courses launched will form a “further response to the impacts of the global pandemic, providing upskilling and reskilling places for those who have been most affected”.

Harris outlined that several of the courses where places have been made available focus on “future-proofing” employees skills, particularly for those in roles which may be affected by digitalisation. He further outlined that to ensure a “jobs led recovery” it is necessary to focus on upskilling and SME supports.

The 2,555 part and full-time postgraduate places will be on 207 courses in 23 different public and private institutes of higher education. There is a wide range of courses with available places, including Engineering, Data Analytics and Environmental Sciences.

Several postgraduate courses in UCD are available under the initiative. There are 7 spaces in MSc in Criminology & Criminal Justice, 5 in MA in Sociology, 10 in MSC Data and Computational Science, and 15 in MSc Sustainable Energy and Green Technologies.

The 11,597 places on short, modular courses will be on 538 courses, in areas ranging across 32 different subjects. The courses are more focused and brief in order to allow people an accessible method of education to upskill, reskill and return to the workforce as quickly as possible. Each module is stand-alone, but they are accredited in a way that allows participants to return and complete other modules in order to gain a qualified degree.

There are also several modular courses available in UCD. 20 places have been dedicated to Personalised Medicine, 30 to Bioinformatics Analysis of High Throughput Data, and 30 to Child Welfare and Protection in the Clinical Environment.

Minister Harris described the initiative as “exactly” what is needed to “increase Irish university capacity to extract and adapt high-demand modules from existing programmes, and develop tailored courses, to suit the needs of enterprise and lifelong learning”.

Alan Wall, CEO of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) said: “it is great to see the HEA working in partnership with higher education institutions to unlock the flexibility of third level in dealing with difficult times”.

Lorna Fitzpatrick, President of the Union of Students Ireland (USI) has described the move as a “really positive announcement”. Fitzpatrick further emphasised the importance cost “never” being a barrier for education whilst acknowledging that it is in Ireland.

Many prominent political leaders have also shared their support for the initiative. Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue described the initiative as “really important”, while Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD also voiced her support.