Teacher shortage drives big demand for college courses
Demand for post-primary teacher training courses has bounced even higher since the initial deadline for making CAO college choices in February.
Relentless headlines about shortages for key subjects, including maths, Irish, home economics and foreign languages, have clearly fuelled even more interest in a career as a post-primary teacher.
More places have also been opened on some courses to boost student numbers.
Latest figures from the CAO show demand for post-primary teaching courses is now up 7pc on last year, well ahead of the 4pc rise registered after the February deadline.
Primary-level teacher training courses have also seen an 8pc leap in interest this year - although that figure hasn't changed since February.
The rocketing demand for teaching is even more noteworthy against an overall 4pc drop in CAO applications - 77,171, down from 80,568 in July 2017.
Against the 4pc general decline, there has been a higher-than-average 6pc drop in male applications, most noticeable in counties such as Carlow and Clare (-15pc), Monaghan (-13pc), Donegal and Leitrim (-12pc ) and Limerick (-11pc).
The overall drop is attributed to a combination of a temporary dip in Leaving Cert candidate numbers, the availability of more jobs in the recovering economy and the emergence of CAO alternatives, such as apprenticeships and traineeships.
The fall-off is most pronounced for courses in institutes of technology, with demand for Level 7/6 (ordinary degree/higher certificate) programmes down 8pc.
The latest figures are based on CAO data following the 'Change of Mind' period, which ended last Sunday, and which is generally used by about 50pc of applicants to enter or amend their choices.
Apart from teaching, honours degree study areas that bucked the trend with a rise in applications include biological and related sciences (14pc), engineering and engineering trades (4pc), architecture and construction (3pc), and law (3pc). In contrast, disciplines that have seen a big drop in interest include arts (-13pc), journalism (-27pc), physical sciences (-33pc), maths and statistics (-12pc), computing (-11pc), transport services (-27pc), and veterinary (-11pc).
While there has been a big increase in demand for individual courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), the overall fall-off will cause concern at a time when these skills are increasingly sought-after by employers.
There is no way of predicting what the cut-off points will be for any course in August, but increased demand can lead to a rise on points, and vice-versa.