The Government is expected to sign off today on a €24m package to fund an extra 4,620 college places in September.
About 3,300 of them are to help soak up extra demand in a year of a record 84,526 CAO applications, coupled with the fiercest ever competition among school-leavers for high-points courses.
The package includes 440 new places in health sciences, such as nursing, pharmacy and medicine – where demand is up 15pc, 23pc and 20pc respectively as well as 450 in science subjects, 120 in education and 102 in law.
There will also be a significant increase in capacity in media studies, additional places in veterinary and greater numbers in business.
As well as those, there are 1,300 new places on courses to equip graduates to meet skills needs in the economy – in areas such as climate change – under a scheme known as the Human Capital Initiative, which Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris is bringing the package to Cabinet.
At 9pc, the overall year-on-year rise in CAO applications is high, and reflects more demand from mature students and a more than doubling of demand from EU countries linked to Brexit.
But many courses have seen an above average increase in demand, driven largely by expectations among school-leavers of high points linked to the dual option Leaving Cert 2021.
Pressure for places on popular college courses has intensified since February.
Latest CAO data confirm a final figure of 84,526 applications, up from 79,176 in February and from 77,831 in 2020. It means increased demand across a swathe of courses, over and above what was evident in the spring.
As well as late applications, the data reflect the course preferences of 43,978 who changed their mind since February and of 5,729 who had not entered their choices in February.
Most are pursuing an honours degree, with 77,356 first preferences for Level 8 courses, compared with 42,161 for ordinary degree/higher certificate (Level 7/6) courses.
Notwithstanding the 20pc rise in first preferences for medicine, they are down a little since February, probably reflecting the results of the Health Professional Admissions Test (Hpat) aptitude test.
Architecture, agriculture, veterinary, biological sciences, computing, arts, environment-related courses, social sciences and journalism are also among the areas with big surges in interest.
One discipline showing a sharp rise since February is business, with more than 1,000 additional first preferences bringing the figure to 9,835. However, at 3pc, the increase in demand still lags behind the average.
Law has taken a hit in popularity, with first preferences down 8pc on July 2020, to 2,930. While applications have grown since February, it was a small rise of 158, from 2,772.
Meanwhile, teaching courses and those linked to transport are among those seeing a downturn in interest.
At UCD first preferences are up 13pc, to a record 10,265.