Science and computing score highest in CAO demands
CAO surge in demand for science, computer degrees
THIRD-level colleges make a record number of offers to students today after a surge in demand for places on science and computing courses.
Almost 1,000 more students are getting offers than this time last year even though there has been an overall decline in applications.
The rising demand for technology and science shows school-leavers are opting for degrees they hope will translate into jobs.
Both the Government and employers have promised those jobs will be there and have repeatedly said there are not enough properly qualified graduates to fill them.
In today's bumper CAO round one offer, 47,821 are getting a third-level offer.
Marginally more of them are getting their top choice (up from 47pc to 48pc) compared with last year.
More than 75pc of applicants to the CAO, the Central Applications Office for admissions, have received
their first, second or third preferences -- also an increase on last year.
However, while computing and science courses are in high demand, interest for engineering, another key skill required for economic growth, is flat.
This may be because honours engineering degrees require good grades in higher level maths, which has a low uptake among Leaving Cert students and has sparked a controversy for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn over the past week.
Despite the big number of offers, today will bring heartache for many aspiring doctors who have had their hopes dashed as the points for medicine has risen once again.
The HPAT aptitude test that was supposed to take the heat out of the punishing points race for medicine has contributed to a rise of between nine and 13 points for medical schools this year.
The increase is attributed to students taking grinds for, and repeating, HPAT.
Points increased for most of the courses in Trinity College, with about 2,884 places being offered today to prospective undergraduate students.
Of those, 558 are to students from groups traditionally under-represented in third-level, such as mature students, students with disabilities and those from lower socio-economic groups. That is up from 432 last year and shows how access to third-level is slowly broadening beyond the traditional school-leaver cohort.
At UCD the fall in points to 355 for the omnibus entry to arts, the biggest third-level course in the country, was expected as first preferences for this option were down 10pc this year.
However, UCD has recorded a jump in points for its omnibus science degree with points up 20 to 455.
Computer science, which was struggling during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, has risen by 35 points to 410. This is despite an increase in the number of places from 60 to 65.
This year NUI Maynooth saw particularly strong growth in the demand in arts and sciences.
Points for general arts admission, the university's most popular course, rose to 380 while points for general science admission have risen by 10 to 375.
The new Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Paddy Prendergast, last night described HPAT as a "brave experiment" that now needed to be revised.
He said he supported the idea of a supplementary process, alongside the points system, to help broaden access to medicine and other third-level courses.
Because of the huge pressure on students, and advantages that may be gained by those who can afford grinds or fee-paying schools, a review of the points system is under way.
Dr Prendergast said consideration should be given to the use of interviews as part of the selection process, although this was ruled out by the previous review of the system in 1999.
He suggested that there could be a minimum points threshold with a further selection procedure involving interviews or portfolios, as already happens in a small number of cases.
The use of interviews leaves colleges open to charges of bias.
Dr Prendergast said: "I realise interviews have the difficulty of being subjective, but I think we need to put the options on the table."
While points for courses in areas such as computing and science went up this year, others were steady or saw a drop.
Of the 842 honours degree courses, points increased for 368, or 44pc, and areas with not unexpected points falls included those in building/ architecture and law, where demand has dropped.
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