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College hopefuls holding steady at 73,035 applicants

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(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Applications for college entry are about the same as last year, according to CAO figures.

Some 73,035 college hopefuls had registered with the centralised applications service when the main deadline passed on Saturday.

However, the final number may be higher as there is a facility for late applications, and normally a few thousand more come in.

The February 1 figure was down slightly, but not significantly, compared with the 73,157 applications to the CAO on the same date last year.

There is no breakdown of how many applicants are sitting the Leaving Cert this year and how many fall into other categories, such as mature students or students from Northern Ireland and the UK.

With Leaving Cert candidate numbers expected to continue rising in 2020, it seems likely there will be a growth in CAO applicant numbers from this cohort, levelled out by a decline in demand from other categories.

Going by trends in recent years, a drop in applications from "matures" - linked to the widespread availability of employers - and a Brexit-related fall in interest from Northern Ireland and the UK would not be unexpected.

It will be another month before the CAO publishes a breakdown of demand from applicants for the different areas of study. Where there is increased competition for places, applicants may expect the cut-off points for some courses to rise. On the other hand, where there is a fall-off in interest in a discipline, points can slip.

Irish Independent