Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said he expects students and staff to be back on campus for the new academic year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Harris said he also expects that most students returning to college will have been fully vaccinated, "and obviously staff generally being older than the students should also be overwhelmingly vaccinated".

He said the college experience this past year had been "rotten for students and for staff" and for many it was reduced to "looking down a Zoom camera in a box room or a corner of the kitchen table".

That is ending, he said, adding that "we are getting our students and our staff back to college".

Mr Harris said he will bring a plan to Cabinet in two weeks' time on the guidelines.

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The minister said that libraries and on-campus bars and cafes will reopen in line with public health advice, along with clubs and societies.

He said the emerging picture shows that classroom-based teaching and tutorials will resume, but the challenging area will be large scale lectures and "there is a bit of work to do on that with our public health experts".

He also said that some elements of blended learning, such as recorded lectures, may continue.

The minister said he knows students may like their results earlier than September, but said they will not miss out on offers as the CAO and college system are adjusting to the new timetable.

Yesterday, the Department of Education announced that this year's Leaving Certificate results will be issued on Friday 3 September.

Mr Harris said there are increased spaces at third level this year and that there will be a space for anyone who wants it, and appealed to students to look at all their options - not just higher education but further education and apprenticeships also.

He said his department is working with UCAS, which has agreed to change its deadline to 7 September for students applying to UK colleges, and is also engaging with other universities abroad.

He said 84,500 applications have been made to the CAO this year, which is the highest ever, but that this includes applications from overseas students and mature students.

"What we are seeing is extra demand coming from more European students and, as a result of Covid, more mature students."

Mr Harris said there has been a big increase in people wanting to be journalists, adding, "we have identified around 600 extra places in media, almost 400 extra places in science", along with identifying 184 additional nursing places.

He said in return for additional spaces there would be additional staff.

Meanwhile, the Irish Universities Association said first year students will be "behind the line" in finding accommodation for college.

It said the delayed Leaving Cert results will mean that CAO offers will go into the third week of September.

IUA Director General Jim Miley said the association is working very closely with Minister Harris to maximise the number of students that will be allowed on campus in the new academic year.

Speaking on the same programme, he said that while a lot of "what ifs" remain and the numbers on campus will have to work within the prevailing public health guidelines, the hope is that as many students as possible can learn on campus.

He said that an additional 3,000 to 5,000 college places will be made available this year across a range of disciplines, but said students are coming into an already overstretched system, which will impact staff-student ratios, equipment, physical capacity and placements.

Mr Miley said Covid-19 has decimated additional funding used by colleges for recruitment and the Government needs to "close the gap" as colleges seek to take on more students again this year.

Mr Harris said he accepts that accommodation can be a difficult issue for first year students, but colleges need to reserve some spaces for first years, so they do not miss out on this, adding that "the onus is on all".