Irish universities have agreed to increase the number of places available on teacher training programmes for secondary school teachers.

The step is being taken in an attempt to address a chronic shortage of teachers in some subject areas.

Following talks with the Department of Education, 100 extra places are to be created on post graduate teacher training courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), Irish and foreign languages.

An additional 280 places are to be created on undergraduate second level teacher training courses, with 100 of these additional places earmarked for STEM, Irish and foreign language qualifications.

These 100 additional places represent a 40% increase.

The deadline for applications to postgraduate courses in these priority areas has also been extended to mid-April.

However, senior figures in the universities sector have expressed concern that the creation of additional places might not be enough to address the teacher shortage.

They have told RTÉ News that financial incentives should also be considered by Government to encourage students who might otherwise not be able to afford the €6,000 fees charged annually for the two-year masters programme for second level teaching.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said: "I am … expanding the number of places on teacher education programmes with a heavy emphasis on certain subject areas at post primary level, to ensure that schools can get the right mix of subject teachers.

"We are … providing additional places to ensure the system can respond more readily to our national priorities and the needs of schools."