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CAO surge for post-primary teaching, Stem, law and construction courses


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

School-leavers reveal the sharp eye they keep on future job opportunities with a surge in CAO applications for courses in the Stem areas of science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as post-primary teaching.

Traditional professions such as law and dentistry have also seen a big rise in demand, although interest in medicine is flat, according to a breakdown of CAO applications for college entry in September.

Application trends by fields of study show how closely school-leavers heed economic forecasts and promises of employment certainty in particular sectors.

The upward swing in some disciplines is in contrast to a fall in areas, including arts, where career paths may not be as well defined, and journalism, where the wane in popularity can be linked to the significant disruption in the industry.

The trends provide an indication of where there may be increased pressure to secure a place this year, as CAO points are determined by demand, and if it goes up, the points often also rise.

On the other hand, a drop in interest for a particular area can be a boon for students, who can benefit from a year-on-year fall in cut-off points.

In a year when overall demand is flat, the well publicised shortages of post-primary teachers has fuelled a 10pc rise in first preferences.

Demand for honours degree courses in maths and physical sciences is up by 10pc and 8pc, respectively, while engineering is up 6pc. Technology course applications are down 5pc, but many of these are categorised under engineering.

Architecture/construction is up 8pc, reflecting ongoing confidence in the building sector. In health, nursing and midwifery is down, largely due to the drop in mature applicants, while physiotherapy and pharmacy are up 8pc and 4pc, respectively.

As well as arts, which is down 5pc, others seeing a decline in interest are agriculture (-5pc) and veterinary (-3pc).

The CAO received 72,973 applications by the February 1 main deadline, a decrease of 61 (-0.1pc ) on last year. The Brexit influence can be seen in the 6pc drop in applications from Britain, although there is a 4pc rise from Northern Ireland.

While overall CAO demand is unchanged, that can be largely attributed to a 7pc decline in mature student applications, down 560 to 7,273, as well as a dip in applications from post-Leaving Cert (PLC) course graduates.

Leaving Cert candidates, who account for the overwhelming number of CAO applicants in any year, are on the rise and so too is the level of application from this cohort, ensuring keen competition for many courses.

The CAO breakdown also highlights the widening gap in interest between Level 8 honours degree courses compared with the Level 7/6, ordinary degree/higher certificate, courses.

Honours degree courses remain far more popular, with 63,378 first preferences, although down 1.5pc it compares with 26,910 first preferences for Level 7/6 courses, down 3.5pc.

New openings in apprenticeships/traineeships are providing an alternative route to a qualification and career for many, while, at a time of full employment, there are many opportunities for PLC graduates as well as those who may otherwise return to college as mature students.

The figures need to be treated with caution for a number of reasons, including the 6,428 applicants, who have not yet entered any courses choices. That is 1,077 higher than last year and, when they list their preferences, as they can do in the change-of-mind period, the picture will change.

Indeed, any applicant can add, remove or re-order course choices between May and July - and about half usually do.

Also, overall disciplinary trends do not necessarily reflect demand for individual courses. For instance, against an average 2pc drop in first preferences for honours degree business courses, at Maynooth University, Business is up 19pc, while at UCD commerce is up 13pc. Other programmes at Maynooth that have seen an above average increase in first preferences include engineering, up 40pc.

Irish Independent