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Why points for new courses are not on colleges' lists

The chart of courses in our Going to College supplement, published last Monday, contains a number of courses which don't show any points for 2011. In most cases, the reason is these are new courses being introduced in 2012.

People often ask what the points will be for a new course that appears for the first time on a college's lists. The answer, as any admissions officer will tell them, is that one cannot tell what the cut-off points will be until after the offers are made next autumn. Points are not set in advance, although minimum entry requirements are.

Points emerge as a result of supply and demand, so everything depends on the number of people that apply, the number of places available, and the results of those who apply.

These factors all come together after the publication of the Leaving Certificate in August, and only then can colleges tell for certain what were the "cut-off" points for the course, that is, the points of the last applicant being offered a place on that course.

Levels of competition for any course depend upon factors such as the content of the course, how many people want to do it, even how many people are aware of its existence.

Most new courses appear in the prospectus of the college in question, and in CAO's handbook. Some appear on the Important Changes list under CAO Handbook, on CAO's website, www.cao.ie

Meanwhile, there is much speculation this year about whether or not applications to CAO will increase in 2012, particularly taking into account the increase in tuition fees for English universities from 2012/2013.

This could result in a drop in Irish applicants to the UK, and an increase in the numbers of UK applicants to Irish universities and other colleges.

Recent application figures published by UCAS (the UK Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) show that applications from the Republic of Ireland to UK universities in 2012 are down, although final figures won't emerge until after the normal UCAS closing date of January 15.

The decrease in Irish applicants is probably a result of the increase in fees in English universities. Universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not introducing the same fees increase for their own students.

In Northern Ireland, the maximum fee for NI students (and for those from the Republic of Ireland) starting a degree course in 2012/13 will be £3,465. Fees do not have to be paid upfront -- students can take out a tuition fees loan, and they can defer paying this back until they have graduated.

Interest is always keen in courses in the professional healthcare areas, so some applicants from the Republic may apply to those courses in the North.

*A reader sought clarification about the exact bonus points being awarded for Higher level Leaving Cert Maths from this year. Under the scheme, 25 bonus points will be added to the standard score for any candidate who presents any grade from an A1 to a D3 in Higher Level maths. The bonus points are included in the overall points calculation only when Mathematics is one of the applicant's best six subjects following the addition of the bonus.

Today, registrations close for HPAT Ulster, the assessment test used by the University of Ulster as part of the selection process of applicants to a number of its B.Sc. healthcare programmes, such as Dietetics, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography (Therapeutic), Radiography (Diagnostic), and Speech and Language Therapy. Registering to take HPAT-Ulster (the test is held on January 28) does not constitute an application for admission to the University of Ulster. In addition to registering for HPAT-Ulster, an applicant must apply to UCAS by January 15 in the usual way. See www.hpat-ulster.acer.edu.au or www.ulster.ac.uk * Also today, NUI Maynooth hosts a CAO Advisory Evening from 7.30pm to 9.30 pm. See http://admissions.nuim. ie/news/index.shtml

Irish Independent