Disappointment as IT Tralee forced to drop agri mech course for 2020

IT Tralee was forced to drop its level 7 Agricultural Mechanisation bachelor of science degree course due to a shortage of prospective students.

The institute withdrew the course from consideration two days before CAO offers were issued, prompting disappointment from parents of interested students.

One parent, Johnny Corkery, spoke of his frustration with the move, stating: “I’m coming at this from two points of view here.

I’m looking at it from an industry point of view where we’re trying to encourage quality lads into the industry to make it sustainable going forward, and I’m also coming at it from a personal point of view, because my young lad did the Leaving Cert and had that course down as his first choice.

Corkery explained that the college contacted his son last week: “The college asked him there during the week with a phone call, saying if it wasn’t going ahead would he do agricultural engineering instead.”

Corkery feels it’s a missed opportunity, however, saying: “Agri Mechanisation is more practical and it’s a level 7 after three years, whereas if he does an ordinary apprenticeship it’s level 6 after four years.”

Another parent also voiced disappointment for her son, again pointing to the practical benefits of the course over others.

IT response

In a statement to AgriLand, IT Tralee explained that the numbers seeking to do the course were just not viable:

“Unfortunately, due to a low level of eligible applicants and difficulty in obtaining sponsors as required, a decision was taken on Wednesday, September 9, 2020, by IT Tralee to cancel the BSc in Agricultural Mechanisation.”

The institute said that a number of factors led to this decision including:
  • The challenge in securing sponsoring employers for those who wished to pursue the programmes and the subsequent low levels of eligible applicants;
  • Due to the low level of eligible applicants, the cost of running the programme would be prohibitive;
  • The class size would not result in a positive or engaging third level experience for the applicants involved.

“In total, nine students were eligible to receive an offer for a place on this programme. IT Tralee [ITT] reviewed the individual applications and also consulted with the applicants to determine, if based on their current situation, they still wished to pursue this programme.

“Based on this analysis and consultation, ITT estimates that five, maximum six, students would have pursued the programme at the ITT.

“ITT is endeavouring to work with each applicant to see how they can best direct/support those concerned in pursuing another programme at ITT, at another HE or via the FE sector.

The institute left it as late as possible before making the final decision as it was working with the relevant stakeholders to see if we could generate greater sponsor and student interest in the programme.

“The programme was marketed directly by ITT and via its external partners such as the FTMTA [Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association]. Despite these efforts, which involved regional as well as national marketing outreach, appropriate levels of interest for the programme could not be secured.

“Due to the unprecedented nature of this particular year as a result of Covid-19 and predictive grading rather than the traditional Leaving Certificate, instead of cancelling the programme before July 1, ITT did not withdraw the BSc in Agricultural Mechanisation in an endeavour to afford the course the best possible chance of running.

“Before the final decision was made, ITT contacted applicants to see if they would pursue the programme if it did run and/or discuss alternative course options. This further informs the decision making process. Candidates are then written to when the final decision is made,” the college concluded.

40% increase in intake for Pallaskenry

Meanwhile, the Level 7 Bachelor of Engineering (Ag Mechanisation) degree delivered in association with LIT and Salesian Agricultural College Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick, has seen a 40% increase in intake this September.

The Level 6 Higher Cert in Ag Mechanisation has also seen a dramatic increase in first round acceptances this year, according to the college.