Saturday 24 March 2018

College applications hit record high as interest in building courses rebounds

Now is the time to assess your CAO application
Now is the time to assess your CAO application

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

APPLICATIONS for a place in college in the autumn are at a record high of 77,725 as the number of people seeking third-level education continues to grow.

Rising demand for a college place is likely to mean an increase in points in courses that are experiencing a surge in popularity this year.

While the normal CAO deadline is February 1, there is a facility for late applications up to May 1, subject to certain restrictions.

Latest figures show that 1,641 more people have applied to the CAO, the centralised agency for college applications, than at this time last year.

Meanwhile, the CAO Change of Mind facility opens today at noon and will remain open until July 1, allowing applicants to add, remove or change the order of their chosen courses.

The ongoing surge at third level can mainly be attributed to increases in applications from school-leavers – because pupil numbers are growing, more are staying on to do the Leaving Certificate, and more are seeking a college qualification.

A breakdown of trends provided by the CAO in March, after the main February 1 deadline had passed and when applications stood at 73,091, gave an indication of this year's trends.

It showed a return in popularity in areas that suffered a big decline after the economic crash, such as the construction industry, and professions of law and architecture.

There has also been a resurgence in interest in business, with a rise of almost 6pc in first preferences for honours-degree courses, building on last year's 4pc bounce.


A recent growth in demand for engineering and technology courses is continuing with a 10pc rise in first preferences, while agriculture/horticulture has also retained its attraction, with growth of 12pc.

Science has enjoyed a huge surge in interest in recent years, but that has slipped this year with applications rising by less than 1pc.

Demand for education courses, such as primary teaching, show a 2pc rise, representing a reversal of an 8pc decline last year.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors has highlighted rapidly growing demand for property and construction surveyors. A drop-off in CAO applications after the construction industry crash has led to a situation where demand for graduates is exceeding supply.

The society said conservative estimates suggest over 1,100 new surveyor jobs are expected to come onstream over the next four years.

Applications to the CAO by May 1 are not only above last year's comparable figures but also ahead of the previous record in 2010, the first and only time the figures went above 77,000. That was the year demand from mature students soared, as growing numbers of recently unemployed sought the necessary qualification for a new career.

Irish Independent

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