Thursday 26 April 2018

Tech, law and construction all see big surge in CAO applications

79,214 overall make this a record year

First preference applications for Level 8 (Honours Degree) courses
First preference applications for Level 8 (Honours Degree) courses
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Surging demand from CAO applicants for degrees in construction, technology and law is likely to trigger a rise in points for some college courses in these disciplines.

It is a record year for CAO applications, which now stand at 79,214, up from 74,424 recorded after the initial, February deadline and from 77,977 this time last year.

And final figures on CAO course choices confirm trends that emerged earlier this year, with a lift in interest among applicants in areas where job opportunities are growing.

The bounce back for building is obvious, with a 15pc rise this year in applications for honours degree (Level 8) courses in architecture.

The recovery in the building industry has clearly also prompted a 14pc rise in first-preference applications for other construction and property-related honours degree courses.

Meanwhile law, which suffered a big downturn in demand during the recession, has seen an 11pc growth in first preferences, when compared with last year.

Much of the almost 14pc growth in students making engineering/technology courses their top choice is attributed to the wealth of opportunities for graduates with technology qualifications, which employers are often finding difficult to fill.

The CAO accepts late entries up to May and, as well as those, the latest figures reflect choices made by about 6,000 applicants who had registered by February but did not indicate their preferences, as well as changes of mind that applicants may make before July 1.

Honours degree courses are the most sought-after on the CAO, attracting 70,006 first preferences this year, up from 68,737 last year.

In contrast, there were 46,991 applications for courses at Level 7/6 (ordinary degree and/higher certificate), down from 48,310 last year.

The average rise in demand for honours degree courses this year is 1.8pc and other disciplines that have seen an above-average increases are dentistry, medicine, "other healthcare", such as occupational therapy, and administration/business.

While the final first preference figure for medicine is up almost 4pc to 2,978 on this time last year, it is down from the 3,283 who had made it their top choice in February. This is probably a consequence of students reviewing their chances after receiving the results of the HPAT aptitude test at the end of June.

CAO cut-off points for courses are linked to demand for the number of available places on individual courses.

Changes in points from year to year follow swings in demand - with points rises often following an increase in applications, while points may drop where there has been a fall in student interest.

Disciplines that have recorded a drop in applications this year include arts, science, agriculture, physiotherapy, nursing and veterinary medicine.

About four in five of this year's Leaving Certificate candidates have applied for a college place through the CAO.

As well as 46,676 recent school-leavers, other applicants to the CAO include Leaving Cert candidates from previous years, students who have completed post Leaving-Certificate (PLC) and other further education courses and mature students.

There are 1,397 courses listed on the CAO this year, down slightly on last year, reflecting a move by some colleges to simplify their offering at point of entry and allowing students to specialise late. There are 925 honours programmes and 472 ordinary degree/higher certificate courses.

The Leaving Certificate results will be released next Wednesday and will be followed on Monday August 17 with the CAO Round 1 offers. The annual National Parents Council post primary (NPCpp) Exam Helpline will run for six days over the period to assist students and parents.

The helpline, which is sponsored by the Irish Independent, the Department of Education and Skills and Eircom, will be staffed by members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.

Irish Independent

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