STUDENTS will use the CAO as a "one-stop shop" for applications to all courses in further and higher education, under ambitious new plans.
The agency has outlined how it intends to extend its service to the wider post-secondary sector, including all part-time programmes.
The proposed expansion will offer a clearer picture of the options available, from post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) to post-graduate, and a centralised applications system.
It will make it easier for students to navigate through different levels, while also streamlining the application process for colleges and making it more cost-efficient.
Currently, the CAO handles applications – about 77,000 a year – for first-year undergraduate places in 45 third-level colleges, universities, institutes of technology, teacher training and a small number of private providers.
Under its new plans, it would produce additional centralised lists for different categories of courses, at appropriate times of the year, and process applications based on criteria set by the various institutions.
Chairman of the CAO Strategic Planning Committee, Dr Michael Mulvey, said the purpose was to improve services for the applicant by providing a one-stop shop for applying for courses in Ireland.
Its Strategic Plan 2013-2017, launched yesterday, outlines how it hopes to cater for categories such as post-graduates.
It also has its sights on processing applications for about 300,000 places in the further education sector, such as on PLC courses.
Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland welcomed the initiative and said it fitted with moves to restructure higher education.