CAO points for college entry have crashed the 600-point limit for the first time.
In a remarkable development in CAO Round 1, the cut-off points for UCD’s prestigious BSc Economics and Finance has hit 601.
In the 33-year history of the CAO, it's the first course where more than 600 Leaving Cert points were needed to get an offer.
Overall it is a bumper year for Round 1 offers, notably for the Level 8 - honours degree - programmes, as colleges opened more places to cater for the rising demand from school-leavers.
UCD, the University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Maynooth University are among those that have made a record number of offers.
The CAO made offers to 51,513 applicants, up from 50,746 last year, when application levels were broadly similar.
Among them were 43,851 Level 8 offers – up from 42,301 last year – reflecting the strong demand from school-leavers for entry to honours degree courses.
But there was a drop in offers for Level 7/6 courses – at 30,806, it was down from 31,351 in 2018 – also reflecting the decline in applications.
While UCD’s BSC Economics and Finance has created a new points record, there were also notable rises in other courses while, as usual, many stayed the same, or saw a drop in points.
UCD raised the bar for entry to Economics and Finance because there were so many high-achieving applicants, with at least 600 points each, competing for the 50 CAO places on the course.
The three-year course with the option of a fourth to include an internship, has soared in demand for this year.
UCD say the course "provides everything you need for a future career in the areas of financial economics, banking and finance".
The university describes it as a "competitive programme" but one that has "excellent employment rates and above-average starting salaries".
High-achieving Leaving Cert students have effectively broken the CAO bank, forcing UCD to tap into the 25 Maths bonus points to help with the selection process.
Higher level maths is an entry requirement for the degree programme, and all eligible students would have had the 25 bonus points in the bag, bringing their total maximum score up to 625.
The maths bonus was introduced as a mechanism to encourage uptake in the subject at higher level – and, this year, a record 33pc of candidates did just that.
Potentially, it allows candidates to score a maximum 625 points, but it was not anticipated that the extra the extra 25 would feature in the selection process.
A decade or more ago, when the demand for Medicine from high achieving students made 600 points a virtual necessity, the HPAT test was introduced as a valve.
UCD has increased the number of first year places to 4,120, up 1.4pc on last year, and increased the number of Round 1 offers by 140.
Some 59pc (23) of UCD courses have seen points rise, while points for 12 of its courses fell and four - Commerce, Commerce International, Physiotherapy and Sport & Exercise Management - remain the same.
UCD Registrar and Deputy President of UCD, Professor Mark Rogers said although they had significantly encouraged applicants from cohorts other than the Leaving Cert through specific initiatives such as the Access Programme, they had also increased the number of offers we are making in Round 1 today by 140.
"We are the university-of-first-choice in Ireland and seek to maintain our national appeal," he said.
The strong demand for STEM this year has seen points rise for many science, engineering and technology courses, although others have held steady with the opening of extra places taking some of the pressure off.
UCD’s Engineering is up to 511 and will take in up to 265 students as the demand for places is so strong while points for its Computer Science are up 10 to 488. UCD has also increased places on its Science course but points still rose one to 521.
Points for UCD’s Commerce and Commerce International courses remain at 2018 levels. A number of extra places in Commerce have been offered, bringing numbers up to 220.
Meanwhile Business & Law has dropped 10 points to 521.
The university’s City Planning & Environmental Policy course, which experienced the largest percentage increase in first preferences (117pc) this year, has seen points rise by 26 to 388.
Dublin City University made its highest ever number of CAO offers, with over 3,600 first round places offered, up 5.7pc on last year. It has made 150 additional places available.
The DCU Institute of Education has opened an additional 39 places across the portfolio of education programmes. Its new Post-Primary Teacher Education programme (Gaeilge with French, German or Spanish), aimed at addressing the shortage of language teachers at post-primary level, proved popular with almost 45 places offered and entry points at 410. Points for the BEd in Early Childhood Education rose by 10 to 398.
At the DCU Business School, programmes that include opportunities for students to study abroad in partner universities have remained very popular, with Global Business (Transatlantic) and Global Business (Canada) achieving DCU’s highest points at 578 and 566, respectively. Global Business (Spanish) rose to 501 points. Aviation Management was in demand this year, with points rising by seven to 463.
Brian MacCraith, DCU President, said it was "very clear that students are becoming more and more discerning in their choice of degree programmes and that employment prospects and societal impact are major factors in that regard."
At the University of Limerick, CAO offers to Leaving Certificate students have exceeded 3,000 for the first time in its history.
UL President Professor Des Fitzgerald said the increase in offers was part of the ambitious growth plans for the university, which aim to increase its student cohort of 15,000 to 20,000 over the next decade.
Maynooth University is expecting to admit 3,225 new first year students this year, an increase of 3pc from last year.
Entry points have risen for a number of the university’s degree courses, such as the BA Psychology (from 473 to 495 points), the BSc in Biological and Biomedical Sciences (from 445 to 462), and the BSc Science with Education (from 434 points to 451).
Maynooth University president Professor Philip Nolan said they had seen a very strong demand for places this year, up 7pc on last year.
Trinity College Dublin is offering 3,335 places this year, including to students who have been offered places through Access routes and its experimental Feasibility Study, where entry is not solely based on points.
Points for Trinity’s Global Business is up 11 to 566*, while its Business Economic and Social Studies (BESS) degree is up nine to 520*. An asterisk means that not all on those points received an offer.
Its STEM courses that saw an increase include Engineering at 497, up nine points and Engineering with Management at 522 up 12 points. Similarly, there were increases in Mathematics at 566, up 32 points; Theoretical Physics at 565, up 34 points; Management Science and Information Systems Studies (MSISS) at 589, up 12 points; and Biological and Biomedical Sciences at 520, up 11 points. Additionally, Geography and Geoscience at 435 saw an increase of 22 points, and Physical Sciences at 510, increased by one point.
In its Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, there were increases in Film Studies at 478 up 11 points; History at 531, up 25 points; Sociology at 473, up 17 points, Psychology at 565 points increased by 22 points, while Philosophy, Political Science, Economics and Sociology at 566 saw an increase of three points.
If a candidate is anyway unhappy with a result, they should apply immediately to view their script(s). Examiners have a huge number of papers to get through and mistakes can be made in totting up scores, assigning marks or they may miss part of the script altogether.