CAO surge in student demand for science, computing and agriculture courses
Farming, food high on list of CAO 'most wanted courses'
COLLEGE hopefuls are dramatically swinging to science, computing and agriculture as they chase courses offering the best job prospects, new CAO figures reveal.
School-leavers are clearly heeding the message from ministers and industry chiefs that these subjects hold out by far the best hope of employment after college.
And the resurgence in the farming and food industry is reflected in continuing strong demand for agriculture courses, with interest doubling in the past five years.
In contrast, the former much sought-after architecture and construction courses continue to slide in parallel with the collapse of the building industry.
Arts and social science have also suffered a dip this year, although the combined category remains the most popular in the CAO.
Public service job cuts have clearly had an impact on student choice, with reductions in applications for teaching and some healthcare courses, such as physiotherapy.
However, demand for medicine and nursing is up.
And there are signs of an increase in those looking to do law, which suffered badly when the property market crashed and demand for conveyancing collapsed.
The trends emerge in a breakdown of the 71,648 applications to the CAO this year.
Overall, applications are up by about 400 on 2011.
First preferences for science, including computing, at honours degree level (level 8) increased by 18.47pc this year and is up 63.5pc since 2008.
University College Dublin attracted the largest number of first-preference applications to the CAO, up almost 11pc on last year to a record 8,385.
The surge in interest in computing is underscored with a 44pc rise in applications for computer science at UCD, a 60pc increase at NUI Maynooth, a 28pc rise at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and 18pc at Letterkenny IT.
At TCD's School of Mathematics, ranked 15th in the world, first-preference applications are up 80pc.
Applications to TCD for science are up 13pc this year, while at UCD there has been a 31pc rise since 2009. Trinity has also recorded a 25pc rise in applications for law this year, the first time in five years that demand has increased, while at UCD law is up 5pc.
More than half of the University of Limerick's science and engineering programmes increased first-preference applications.
Higher Education Authority chief executive, Tom Boland, said it was vital for Ireland's future economic and social development that it had a greater number of top-class graduates in science and technology.
There has also been a significant rise in the number of applications from the North and from Britain.
This is put down to the increase in third-level fees being introduced in parts of the UK this year.
Some colleges are charging up to £9,000 (€10,725), compared with the €2,250 in Ireland next September.
There are 526 extra applications from NI and Britain this year, translating into a rise of 27pc on 2011.
Applications from Northern Ireland have gone from 882 to 1,148, while those from Britain have increased from 1,041 to 1,301.
The new demand from the North and Britain increases pressure on Irish colleges, which say they are already struggling to cope with growing numbers at a time of funding cutbacks.