SCHOOL-leavers are showing strong faith in economic recovery - with a bounce in CAO demand this year for courses in business, construction and traditional professions such as law and architecture.
Science is also up, but there is a worrying drop in overall applications for engineering / technology, although programmes with a strong career focus are popular.
Education has also dipped, but emerging news about a shortage of primary teachers could change that before the final CAO deadline on July 1.
And a drop in applications for nursing may be linked to a rationalisation of courses and an end to separate entry routes for mature students.
The trends are evident in CAO figures, based on applications submitted before the main deadline of February 1.
Overall demand for a college place is flat when compared with the same date last year with 76,086 applications, up five on 2016
In line with the growing appetite for higher qualifications, there as been a slight (0.4pc) increase in applications for Level 8 (honours degree) courses, while Level 7/6 (ordinary degree) programmes are down 1.5pc.
Among the 76,086 applicants, there are more than 6,000 who, while they registered with the CAO, did not indicate a course preference, or preferences - but they may do so before July 1.
Swings in demand for a particular discipline can be an indicator of a fluctuation in minimum CAO cut-off points when compared with the previous year, with a points rise for certain courses often following an applications surge, while fewer applications may lead to a points drop.
The advice to students is not to try to second-guess such possibilities, and the more so this year because of a radical overhaul in the Leaving Certificate grading and CAO points systems.
The changes include an end to the day when points are accumulated only in multiples of five and, from this year, Leaving Certificate students may achieve any score up to 625.
University College Dublin said, while its applications were down 2.7pc on last year, it remained the university of first choice, with 8,685 first preferences.
Some of its large programmes, including science and engineering, were slightly down after a period of sustained growth. However, computer science, radiography and veterinary science remained ”robustly strong” and medicine, business and law had seen an increase in first preferences.
Maynooth University is enjoying a record year, with a 5pc rise in first preferences, with major changes in the choices and flexibility offered by its curriculum clearly winning student approval. Among the highlights are a 32pc increase for business, a 16pc rise for media studies, 15pc for psychology and 9pc for biological sciences.
Dublin City University is also celebrating, with a high of almost 6,000 applications, including a 43pc rise in demand for its BA Economics, Politics and Law and a 10pc jump in applications for the DCU Business School. First preferences for electronic engineering are up by 81pc, while biodmedical engineering is up 61pc, and it has seen “strong” demand for its new BSc Data Science.