My daughter isn't studying Irish. Will she be locked out of college courses? – The Irish Times

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Irish is a minimum entry criteria for some third level courses, but you may be entitled to an exemption. Photograph: iStock
My daughter doesn’t study Irish. She is currently applying to the CAO where Irish is a minimum entry requirement in many of her course choices. Is there a way around this?
Last year was a very tough one for Leaving Cert students, guidance counsellors, teachers and parents. Aside from the uncertainty around the exams, I’m aware of quite a few students who missed out on courses because they didn’t check the minimum entry requirements.
While they had the points, they didn’t meet these entry criteria. Yet, if they had been aware of the requirements in advance – such as Irish – they could have taken some steps to see what other options they had.
For example, University College Dublin, NUI Galway,University College Cork, Maynooth University, RCSI, NCAD, St Angela’s, Shannon College of Hotel Management and the Burren College of Art share similar entry requirements. That’s because they are all National University of Ireland (NUI) colleges or constituent colleges.
Here is a basic guide to NUI matriculation with a few pointers for things to look out for: You need six Leaving Cert subjects to matriculate (with a minimum Grade H5 in two subjects and H7 or O6 in four subjects). The six subjects must include English, Irish and maths (for all programmes in the sciences and engineering with a few exceptions).
You’ll also need a third language in addition to English and Irish for programmes in arts, human sciences, commerce, humanities and social sciences, along with commerce and medicine. A laboratory science subject is required for most programmes in the sciences.
As for Irish, some students may qualify for an exemption from the language because they were born outside Ireland; they received much of their education outside the country; or they have a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.
If any of these circumstances apply to you, you need to contact NUI. Have a look first at its website ( You’ll find more information there and a form if you are looking for an exemption.
Remember: if you have an exemption from Irish in school, you still need to contact NUI about this. If you don’t, the CAO won’t know about your exemption and you will not get an offer. This happened to quite a few students in 2020.
If you got an exemption from NUI in a previous year, but you are only doing your Leaving Cert in 2021, or if you are repeating the exam, you need to contact NUI again to let them know your CAO number. If you don’t, the CAO will not know about your exemption and you won’t get an offer.
When you contact NUI ( or 01 4392424), make sure you give your contact details – mobile number, email and address – so it can get in touch with you if necessary.
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