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Further and Higher Education; Research: Innovation and Science | Healthcare, medicine and veterinary studies incentives

To ask the Minister for Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science the extent to which students are encouraged to study medicine, veterinary medicine and similar professions currently suffering from a dearth of graduates at a time of population growth; if an adequate supply can be maintained in these areas in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Medicine, veterinary medicine, and healthcare professions generally are areas of high student interest and demand, and applications for higher education places in these areas has consistently outstripped the supply available.

Ensuring an appropriate pipeline of suitably qualified healthcare professionals is a key priority. My Department is strongly committed to supporting the health of the population through the provision of graduates with the key competencies and skills to be effective in the health workforce and support a range of clinical teams in our health services.  However, there are real, material limits on the number of places that can be created on courses with significant practical elements and placement requirements, such as veterinary medicine.

In July, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, and I jointly announced an additional 60 places in medicine programmes for this academic year. The agreement reached with the medical schools will create additional places in medical programmes over five years, climbing to 120 in September 2023, and up to 200 by 2026.

Officials from my Department have been engaging extensively with the Higher Education Authority and the higher education sector to identify where additional places can and should be provided in the higher education system. These additional places will be targeted at areas of acute skills need as identified through our national skills architecture. The Higher Education Authority are currently developing a request for Expressions of Interest to issue to the sector targeted at specific areas including veterinary provision and in healthcare areas.

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