CAO: Students bank on new boom with college course choices
College courses linked to construction have seen a major jump in CAO applicants this year as school-leavers bank on future growth in this sector.
Business, technology and professions such as law and architecture have also surged in popularity as course choice trends reflect a growing confidence in the economy.
Applications to the centralised college applications agency have hit a new record of 76,081, with more people going to college than ever.
There will be a heated points race this summer as thousands of students clamour to get into the courses they believe will provide future job prospects.
Another striking feature is a massive swing back to nursing - but overall demand for arts and science courses is down slightly. Meanwhile agriculture, which saw a boom in applications over a number of years, has seen a big drop for the second year in a row.
A sharp growth in applications for particular courses means more competition for each place, which tends to translate into higher points.
Similarly, where applications for a course drops or remain stable, points will generally stay steady or fall.
The massive growth in popularity for certain disciplines can be seen in a breakdown of the course choices by 17 broad categories, published by the CAO today (see table).
Against a general 2pc rise in applications, demand for both engineering/technology and architecture courses soared 13pc.
Nursing, where applications fell last year, has seen a remarkable 11pc jump, probably reflecting widely-publicised skills shortages in Irish hospitals.
Business- and construction-related courses are also on a strong upward trajectory with 8pc growth, while law has seen a 6pc surge.
Maths-related courses have also seen some big jumps. While demand for arts generally is down 2pc, the biggest arts course in the country at UCD, which has an intake of 1,200 students, records an 8pc rise.
There are similar examples in other areas, where individual courses buck the national trend. For instance, while general demand for science is flat, Trinity College, Dublin, has seen an 11pc rise, while at UCD first preferences are up 7pc.
However agriculture is showing a major 24pc drop in first preferences.
Medicine, veterinary medicine and dentistry have also seen a drop in applications, while pharmacy and physiotherapy are up.
Demand for teaching is steady with a 2pc rise, although the Institute of Education at Dublin City University, incorporating primary teacher training, has seen a 9pc increase.
At the University of Limerick, an 18pc increase for arts, humanities and social sciences is attributed to a new BA in Criminal Justice. The 2016 figures also highlight the growing popularity of honours degree courses (Level 8) in particular, which are up 3pc.
Meanwhile, demand for courses at Level 7/6, known as ordinary degrees and higher certificates, is down 2pc.
UCD remains the most popular university, commanding 8,959 first preferences, compared with 7,998 for Trinity.
A radical change in the curriculum at Maynooth University has been rewarded with an above-national-average 5pc rise in first preferences.