The country's third level colleges should consider reducing the number of courses available to first year students in order to lessen the competitiveness that is currently driving the CAO system.

The proposal is included in a document drawn up for education authorities in the run-up to a conference on entry to higher education later this month.

The report's author, Professor Áine Hyland, said this would simplify the application process and should lead to a reduction in points requirements.

Prof Hyland has also said third level institutes should set realistic minimum requirements for these generic first year courses.

She has also recommended consideration of a lottery system to choose from eligible applicants.

Announcing details of the conference this morning, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he was concerned about the negative impact of the points system on the learning experience at second level.

He said the CAO points system and the Leaving Certificate promoted rote learning at the expense of a broader education.