Feasibility Study for New Admissions Route to Enable National College Entry Reform Launched

Posted on: 14 January 2013

A feasibility study for a new admissions route that aims to enable reform of the College entry system and admit a more diverse student body was launched at the Royal Irish Academy this week (Monday, January 14th, 2013). Trinity College Dublin, in partnership with the Central Applications Office (CAO), will use the new admissions route next year on three of its most popular courses Law, History, and Ancient & Medieval History and Culture as part of a feasibility study in admissions.   Twenty-five places will be offered in the new admissions route with prospective students applying through the CAO in January 2014 with the first students entering Trinity in September 2014.

The results of the feasibility study will be shared with the Irish third-level sector and aims to develop a better mechanism to identify and admit applicants who are enthusiastic and passionate about learning, motivated and suitable for their chosen courses, and with the academic ability and potential to be inspired by everything that college has to offer.   The admissions scheme tested in this study will adopt a holistic approach, using a range of materials to make an assessment about the academic ability and potential of each applicant, attempting to match the right person to the right course. 

 “We welcome this opportunity to work with the third-level sector to see a different mechanism for admitting students with the potential and ability to succeed in their chosen courses,” commented the General Manager of the CAO, Ivor Gleeson,speaking at the launch. “The new admissions route being tested in this feasibility study has the potential to bring about a significant change to the system of third-level admissions in Ireland in over thirty years, and we are delighted to join with Trinity in a project of national significance.”

The feasibility study aims to inform broader educational change by providing options to assist in the development of national policy and ultimately a new national admissions system.  The results will be published and shared throughout the sector. It seeks to complement the role of the Leaving Certificate and the teaching community, by working with the Central Applications Office (CAO) applying approaches which have succeeded internationally to an Irish context.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard, William R. Fitzsimmons,  external advisor to the study and guest speaker at the launch said: “This pioneering feasibility study in admissions is something that could be transformative for Ireland – and is one that is vitally important for its future.  The adoption of broader criteria for college admission – using a process called holistic admissions – will send a clear message to the young people of Ireland that the gates of Trinity and all universities are open wider than ever before to those who bring excellence in all its forms.”

The Irish Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) supports the new feasibility study. Speaking about the current points system President of ISSU, Dylan Grace, said: “In a society where students can contribute in many ways and are talented in various ways, it is unjust that a students test scores from one exam should ultimately be the decider of their future.”

In adopting a holistic approach, the feasibility study will use a range of assessments in order to evaluate the academic ability and potential of each applicant.  Operating in partnership with the Central Applications Office (CAO), all applications will be made completely anonymous before evaluation, to ensure the process is free from any external influences.   This includes any names of applicants, any identifying information, and the names of schools.

Applicants to the three courses involved in the study will have the option of using the new admissions route, and submitting the supplementary materials (in which case they will be eligible for all of the regular places on the course filled in the traditional way, as well as the places set aside for the study), or opting out of the study, in which case they will remain eligible for the majority of the places allocated in the traditional way. 

The three ways which will be used to assess applicants in the feasibility study are as follows:

  • Leaving Certificate results.
  • Relative Performance Rank (RPR) – the performance of the applicant   relative to other applicants from their school.  This scale looks at the rank of the applicant compared to every other applicant from their school who has applied to any course, in any college, through the CAO. 
  • Personal and Contextual Data – provided via supplementary materials submitted by the applicant.

The information submitted will be sent to Trinity where it will be examined by professional readers, and will be presented for evaluation to an independent Admissions Review Committee. All information, including Leaving Certificate results, will then go before a Final Review Committee consisting of internal and external representatives, where the final decision will be made about the allocation of the places.   

 “We are conducting this feasibility study because we wish to establish if there is a better and a fairer way to offer college places.  Trinity is prepared to test this new admissions route, and we will share the results at every stage across the entire third-level sector,” concluded Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast.

The feasibility study builds on the work of the conference on admissions which was held in Trinity May last and was discussed as part of the ‘Communication from the Irish Universities Association (IUA) Council to the Minister for Education and Skills on the matter of Reform of Selection and Entry to University in the Context of National Educational Policy’, presented to the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, in August 2012.  The details of the new admissions route have been shared with the other Irish universities, through the IUA, and with the institutes of technology through the IOTI. The progress of each stage of the feasibility study (including any problems and obstacles) will be shared with the wider sector. 

The feasibility study will run for at least two years in 2014 and 2015 with procedures and processes evaluated at regular intervals by internal and external experts. It will be assessed under the following criteria: operations; resources; matching students to courses; meaningful results; legal challenges; public trust.

The College community, representatives from the education sector including  second level and third level, teachers and students  gathered in the RIA for the launch which was chaired by its President, Professor Luke Drury and where speakers included the Dean of Admissions at Harvard, President of the ISSU, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the USI,  as well as the General Manager of the CAO addressed those gathered, endorsing the feasibility study for the new admissions route. They were joined by Trinity’s Provost and  Dean of Undergraduate Studies who outlined the process in detail.

For Harvard Dean’s full speech

For Provost’s speech


For further information click on: www.tcd.ie/undergraduate-studies