Universities are autonomous institutions under the Universities Act 1997, and the management of their academic affairs, including in relation to admissions, is a matter for each individual institution. Therefore, admission to medicine programmes is a matter for the Schools of Medicine in the relevant universities.
The Department of Health has no role in relation to determining admission to these programmes. However, the Deputy may wish to note that in 2020 the Government funded an extra 2,225 higher education places on high-demand courses in areas such as medicine, nursing, law and business, on a once-off basis in order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the Leaving Certificate brought about as a result of the global pandemic. An additional 16 places were provided in medicine.
The Programme for Government Our Shared Future commits to establishing a Workforce Planning Expert Unit to work with the education sectors, regulators, and professional bodies to improve the availability of health professionals and reform their training to support integrated care across the entire health service. This is particularly relevant in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic.
A new Strategic Workforce Planning Unit has recently been established within the Department of Health. The initial work of the Unit will focus on measures to address staffing shortages in critical healthcare areas and looking at the impact the COVID 19 pandemic is having on staffing resources across the entire health system. Effective short, medium, and long-term workforce planning will be vital to ensure that the introduction of new models of care envisaged in Sláintecare are planned and managed effectively from a health workforce perspective.