Tuesday 25 September 2018

Revealed: The most (and the least) popular CAO choices this year

19pc have low to moderately low attitudes to
19pc have low to moderately low attitudes to "perceived learning capability". Stock Image
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

There is a big leap in demand for teacher training courses this year as school-leavers race to fill well-publicised staff shortages in the nation's classrooms.

Despite negative publicity about pay inequality in the profession, there is a striking surge in CAO applications for both primary and post-primary degree programmes.

Against a general 4pc drop in demand for honours degree courses, primary teaching is up 8pc, while courses leading directly second-level teaching careers are up 4pc.

Nursing and construction-related courses have also bucked the trend, while business and law are holding their own in further signs of confidence in the recovering economy.

However there has been a 16pc decline in applications for information and communications technology courses. That's despite graduates in this field being in huge demand and generally among the best-paid.

Any drop in interest in computing would be greeted with dismay, although a new CAO classification system may mean that some courses previously included in this category are positioned elsewhere.

The trends emerge in a breakdown of this year's CAO applications, which overall are down by nearly 5pc, giving rise to some concerns about who has opted out in 2018.

The 72,643 applications to the CAO by February 1 was a decrease of 3,443 (-4.5pc) on 2017, although Leaving Cert numbers are reasonably static.

Institutes of technology will have suffered the most from the fall in applicant numbers, with a drop of more than 10.5pc for ordinary degree/higher certificate courses, known as Level 7/6, almost exclusively provided in these colleges.

Demand for honours degree (level 8) courses - offered in universities, institutes of technology and other college - are down 3.9pc overall.

The figures also show a fall off in interest from mature students - falling 12pc to 8,539 - which may be linked to the availability of jobs in an era of virtual full employment, or participation in back-to-education programmes such as Springboard.

There is a 9pc fall in applications for the HEAR programme, a scheme that offers entry to college on reduced points to students from backgrounds of socio-economic disadvantage.

It is unclear why but recovering family incomes may have led to a drop in eligibility or school-leavers are being attracted into the workplace without qualifications.

A slow, but steady growth in apprenticeship opportunities will account for some of the CAO downturn and may have attracted some students who otherwise would apply for a Level 7/6 course.

Irish Universities Association (IUA) director of academic affairs Lewis Purser noted that the overall drop in demand for college places masked a much bigger decrease in male applications.

He said it would be important to know if young men were applying for further education and training opportunities, which would be a positive development, or whether they were unskilled entrants to the labour market, which would have worrying longer-term implications.

As in previous years, a significant proportion of applicants (6,084) have registered with CAO but have not yet listed their preferences so the overall picture may change.

Applicants can enter or amend course choices between May 5 and July 1.

University College Dublin said it continued to be university of first choice in Ireland, with an increased share of first preferences for Level 8 degrees to 13.7pc.

Trinity College Dublin vice-provost Prof Chris Morash said: "When employment rises, applications to third level drop as more students go directly into work.

"So from one perspective the figures are the barometer of a healthy economy.

"It also means that it is probable that points may fall for some subjects."

Maynooth University said it had grown its share of first preference applications.

Dublin City University said its applications for teaching, nursing and business outstripped national trends.

Irish Independent

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