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Thursday 21 August 2014

Soaring demand for business and computing degrees

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Published 10/03/2014 | 02:30

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File Pic Trinity College
Trinity College

Demand for computing, engineering and business degrees among school-leavers has surged again this year as college applicants heed advice on future job prospects as the economy recovers.

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CAO applications have also seen a bounce back in popularity of courses leading to careers in the construction industry, and professions such as law and architecture, while agriculture remains strong.

But a swing to science that was evident in recent years has stopped, according to a breakdown in applications for college entry next autumn, across 17 broad categories.

Applications to the CAO are at a record high. At 73,091, they are up almost 3pc on March 2013 – although the number of mature applicants is down slightly to 11,079.

The allocation of college places is based on supply and demand, and the extra competition this year in certain disciplines is likely to see points rise for courses in these areas.

The massive demand for a college place, up by about 11pc since 2008, reflects the population boom, as well as growing numbers staying on in school to sit the Leaving Certificate.

The economic crash in 2008 saw the disappearance of jobs into which school-leavers could walk, while the changing nature of work means that employers are seeking staff with qualifications at degree level and higher.

But six years on from the economic crash and the end of the building boom, a notable feature of this year's CAO applications is the return in interest in construction.

Although the numbers are small, first preferences for Level 8 (honours degree) courses in the built environment category have more than doubled from 133 in 2013 to 312, although they are still down from 502 in 2008.

Meanwhile, first preferences for honours degree architecture courses are up 15pc on the year, while law has seen a 4pc rise.

The growth in interest in engineering and technology courses is at more than three times the overall average, with a 10pc rise in first preferences, while agriculture/horticulture has also retained its attraction, with 12pc growth.

There is also a continuing resurgence in interest in business, with a rise of almost 6pc in first preferences for honours degree courses, building on last year's 4pc bounce.

Science has enjoyed a huge increase in applications since 2008, but only by less than 1pc since 2013. However, even with this year's slowdown, first preferences for science remain at 71pc above 2008 levels.

Demand for primary teaching and other education courses is up but, at 2pc, the rise is a little below average, and the number of applicants remains 12pc lower than 2008.

Competition for a place in medicine remains keen, although the number of applicants is down by almost 6pc on last year, probably as a result of a change in the rules relating to  the HPAT aptitude test that applicants must also sit.

With the strong focus on courses that school-leavers believe will lead directly to jobs, demand for the arts/ social science courses rose by less than 1pc, although it still remains the most popular category with 15,044 first preferences.

University College Dublin (UCD) has enjoyed a remarkable increase of 8.4pc in first preferences this year, pushing the number to a record 9,218. Meanwhile, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) suffered a 3.9pc fall, down to 7,728.

NUI Maynooth has also experienced its highest ever level of first preference applications, up 5pc on the year.

While nationally, applications for science are up by less than 1pc, UCD has seen a 23pc rise in first preferences for its Science degree programme.

There are 62,345 applicants for honours degree courses and  37,335 applicants for Level 7/6 (ordinary degree/higher certificate) courses – where trends such as a return in interest in construction are also evident.

But in contrast to the levelling off of interest in applications for honours degree courses in science, at Level 7/6,  demand is up by almost 11pc.

Irish Independent

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