A review of teacher training programmes in Ireland has criticised the level of fees charged to students studying to become teachers, and says course changes introduced seven years ago have contributed to the current shortage of post-primary teachers.
The study, published by the Higher Education Authority, says annual fees of around €6,000 for the two-year postgraduate diploma now required of all new post-primary teachers are "prohibitive" for many students.
It has called for "further consideration" of the impact of the charge.
The review - 'The Structure of Teacher Education in Ireland: Review of Progress in Implementing Reform' - notes that since the introduction of the mandatory two-year diploma in 2013, newly qualified post-primary teachers now have to spend up to six years in university.
While students are charged €3,000 per year at undergraduate level this rises to around €6,000 for each of the two postgraduate years.
Graduate numbers have fallen by more than a third since the two-year diploma, which replaced a one-year programme, was introduced in 2013.
The review notes that additional resources were not made available to universities to cater for the extra year, and that as a result colleges decided to reduce the annual intake of students, in many cases by 50%, to enable them to continue to provide high-quality programmes.
The report notes that the introduction of the two-year programme has led to a reduction from over 1,200 graduates annually to around 800 from 2016 onwards.
It says that this has contributed to the current shortage of post-primary teachers, especially in some subject areas.
In 2013, 1,155 students graduated from postgraduate post-primary diploma programmes, but by 2017 that had fallen to 812.
The review was carried out by Finnish education expert Professor Pasi Sahlberg and by Professor Áine Hyland, Emeritus Professor of Education at University College Cork.
It examines the progress and impact of teacher education reforms introduced a number of years ago.
The reforms saw the consolidation of 19 discrete teacher education providers into six centres.
The report concludes overall that significant progress has been made.