Saturday 23 March 2019

CAO applicants are chasing the jobs in booming economy

Brexit factor sees big drop in applications from UK

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Seeing an uplift: UCD deputy president Professor Mark Rogers
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

This year's school leavers have made smart CAO choices to follow the jobs in the booming economy.

A big jump in demand for courses in the Stem areas of science, technology, engineering and maths is a clear response to the wealth of opportunities for such graduates.

In the fastest-growing economy in Europe, old reliables, such as teaching, law, architecture and construction have also seen a bounce in applications.

Increases of the scale of 11pc for engineering, 5pc for technology, 5pc for architecture/construction and 8pc for second-level teaching will put pressure on points for many courses.

Applicants have also heeded calls to acquire the skills to do business in a global economy, with a 20pc hike for language-related courses.

While pharmacy has seen a 16pc rise and dentistry is up 6pc, it is a mixed picture for health-related courses.

An effective drop in demand for medicine and a fall in nursing applications may be a consequence of negative publicity about working conditions.

Meanwhile, a 51pc drop in applications for journalism reflects the disruption in the media industry, demand for business is also down and arts courses have seen a 6pc decline in popularity.

The trends emerge in a breakdown of CAO course choices entered before the February 1 deadline.

At 73,034, CAO applications are up 0.5pc, which, set against an expected 3pc rise in Leaving Cert candidates, suggests that many are looking beyond the CAO, perhaps to apprenticeships, as a route to a career.

The Brexit factor is obvious with drops of 18pc and 13pc in applications from Northern Ireland and Britain, amid the uncertainty associated with the UK's impending departure from the EU.

Institutes of technology are seeing no benefit from the expected rise in Leaving Cert sits. They are the main providers of courses at Level 6/7 (higher certificate/ordinary degrees), and demand is similar to last year, when it had tumbled by 10pc on 2017.

But there is no let-up in applications for Level 8, "honours" degree, courses with a 2.6pc rise in demand.

A continuing fall in mature student applications - down 8pc - is probably linked to greater availability of jobs and Government-sponsored programmes such as Springboard.

There was a 6pc surge in applicants to DARE, the scheme that allows students with a disability, medical condition or learning, which has had an impact on their education, to apply for a college place on reduced points. The scheme rules relaxed in recent years.

There was a 7pc rise in applications for entry via the HEAR route, which supports students from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds,

UCD deputy president Mark Rogers said the strength of engineering, computing and science applications was a reflection not just on the economy but on the recognition that these skills were increasingly useful in wider society.

"We also see an uplift in interest in degrees relating to the environment, which is possibly as a result of the growing activism among young people who want to force political changes to safeguard the planet."

Trinity College vice-provost Chris Morash said they had seen an increase in applications and first preferences, and "the only cloud is the decline in applications from the North. Brexit continues to discourage students from this part of the island."

Maynooth University has experienced its highest-ever level of first preferences, but president Professor Philip Nolan said "a key concern is the urgent need for additional funding to the university sector so we can properly support these learners".

Dublin City University president Professor Brian MacCraith said first preference choices reflected the high demand for Stem, humanities and language courses.

Irish Independent

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