I am conscious of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the leaving certificate class of 2021, and will take action as necessary to ensure that a full range of further and higher education options are available to them.
This year more students than ever before were offered a place in higher education with more than 49,000 accepting an offer of a place. There is no indication that a higher number of students than usual opted to defer their place to the 2021 academic year, and given the large numbers of students who have been accommodated in higher education this year it is feasible that the numbers of students reapplying to the CAO next year on the basis of Leaving Certificate results from prior years will be lower in 2021 than previously.
The additional places will be maintained next year, and €18 million has been provided in Budget 2021 to deliver an additional 2,700 new undergraduate student places from September 2021. This increase will address demographic growth pressures and equates to an overall investment of nearly €80 million to address the demographic increases since 2018. These places are in addition to the 1,330 additional places commencing in 2021, funded through the Human Capital Initiative Pillar 2, which will be on undergraduate courses in areas of identified skills needs.