CAO first preferences revealed – what do they tell us?

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The CAO figures for first preference submissions have been released. These are typically a good indicator of the points requirements for courses when CAO offers are issued in late August.

Growing in popularity

Among the subject areas showing a growth in interest were business/commerce (up by 6.5 per cent), engineering/technology (up by 3.5 per cent), and agriculture/food courses, which posted the largest increase at 10 per cent.

The figures suggest a move towards areas in which there is a greater number of employment opportunities, which, of course, is only sensible.

After all, the food export industry is estimated to be worth in the region of 9 billion euro to the domestic economy, and that figure is expected to rise to 12 billion euro by next year. Such growth is likely to account for the large increase in applications for agriculture and food courses.

Surprisingly, applications for science subjects stayed pretty much where they were. This should not be viewed too pessimistically, however, as student interest in science subjects has grown year-on-year for some time now and demand was due a slight slow down.

Showing a decrease

Healthcare and primary school teaching were  among the subject areas showing the largest decline in first preference submissions. Pharmacy suffered the biggest drop at 17 percent, while dentistry (down 7 per cent), veterinary (down 6 per cent), physiotherapy (down 4 per cent) and nursing (down 2 per cent) all showed decreases too. Applications for primary teaching courses were down by 7.5 per cent.

It is possible that students’ perceptions of professions in these areas have been damaged by the ongoing and high profile series of disputes between government and members of the public sector over salaries, working hours and resources.

Little change

Overall, the number of CAO applications, applications for honours degrees, and for ordinary degrees and higher diplomas, all dropped by a very slight margin. Arts still receives the largest number of applications, as students seek to receive a general and relatively flexible education before choosing to specialise in a particular field of study.

Due to the fact that the number of CAO applications remains almost on par with last year’s number, it is highly unlikely that points requirements will change in any significant way, and students can have a fair idea of what to expect come 19 August.


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