Monday 17 December 2018

Dramatic fall in number of students entering third-level to study computing

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

There has been dramatic 8pc fall in the number of students entering third-level to study computing courses.

Employment prospects are good with 81pc of recent Irish tech graduates now walking straight into a job, overwhelmingly in Ireland.

But despite a high demand for these graduates, and some of the best starting salaries in the economy, interest in a career in this field has dropped significantly over the past five years.

Statistics from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) show a steady decline in new entrants for information and communications technology (ICT) courses- from 3,103 in 2013/14 to 2,855 in 2017/18.

The downward trend would have continued this year, 2018/19, following an 11pc drop in applications for ICT courses through the CAO, well ahead of the general dip of 4.2pc.

The 8pc decline is even larger when considered against an overall increase in college entrants over the five year period up to 2017/18, although many swung back to courses in business and the professions, such as law as the recession ended.

The ICT fall-off has happened despite a big push to encourage students to consider tech-related careers, with employers crying out for graduates with these skills.

From September 2020, all second-level schools will have the option of offering a new Leaving Cert subject of Computer Science, which, it is hoped, will boost interest in this field of study at third-level.

An audit conducted earlier this year found that there are about 12,000 job vacancies in Ireland, across a wide range of tech disciplines.

There are more than 130,000 people employed in tech-related sectors and since 2011,  34,500 jobs have been announced by technology companies in Ireland.

As well as the tech companies, there is also a big demand for ICT graduates to fill skills gaps in all sectors of the economy.

The annual graduate destination survey conducted by the HEA shows that, last year, 75pc of honours bachelor degree graduates had starting salaries of  €25,000-€45,000, compared with 56pc for all graduates. 

Meanwhile, 9pc of ICT graduates started on €45,000 or more, compared with 6pc of all graduates.

At post-graduate level, 73pc of ICT specialists were on between €25,000-€45,000, compared with 58pc of all post-graduates.

According to the new HEA ICT Factsheet, ICT undergraduates students are also more likely to be holders of student grants, at 53pc, ahead of the average of 44pc,

ICT undergraduates are, overwhelmingly, male, at 86pc in institutes of technology and 83pc in universities.

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