The Central Applications Office (CAO) has today released 2018 application data up to the Change of Course Choices closing date of 1st March. Latest CAO figures show what sectors applicants chose for their first preference. A total of 72,643 applications were received by CAO by the 1st February closing date, this was a decrease of 4.5% on 2017 applications. Mature student applications were also down by 1,168 – a 12% drop from 2017.
The upturn in the economy with more job vacancies and greater availability and uptake of apprenticeships may account for some of the decrease in college applications this year. Mature students may also have been drawn to the increased opportunities available through Springboard+. However, the number of applications may still increase as the late application process will be open (with restrictions) until 1st May.
Examined by subject group, the initial Level 8 data shows some valuable insights. The data released by CAO gives an indication of the sectors that attracted most interest this year. So here is a list of the risers and fallers of 2018.
- Education: Last year saw a 2% decrease in the number of applications applying for courses in education. There was speculation that two-tier pay scales may be off-putting for applicants but this year there has been a 4% increase in applications to education courses dispelling that theory. Figures released show 8% increase in first preference for primary school teaching and 4% increase in secondary teaching. Applications for secondary teaching programmes in DCU alone have gone up by 13%. The points for teaching dropped slightly in 2017 and perhaps this has prompted a surge in teaching applications.
- Biological and Related Sciences: This has been a sector of continuous growth in recent years with many biopharma companies choosing to locate to Ireland. Projected levels of employment in biopharma are very promising and it is anticipated that employment in the biopharma industry will reach 33,200 in 2020. First preference choices for Biological and Related Sciences has gone up by 10% this year.
- Engineering: Good news on the engineering front with an increase of 6% in first preference choices. Engineering applications were down last year which resulted in a significant drop in points for many engineering courses. Fortunately, the interest in engineering has been restored this year. There is an acute shortage of engineering professionals in Ireland and the sector is enjoying a period of growth. Issuing work permits outside the EEA has been necessary to fill these vacant positions.
- Agriculture: First choice preferences in agriculture are up by 6%. Good news for the agri – food industry that has experienced growth and will continue to expand. The National agri-food strategy Food Wise 2025 is working to create 23,000 new jobs in this area.
- Arts: The applications to Arts programmes are always very popular and eclipsed only by the health and business sectors. This years’ dramatic 13% decrease in first preference choices for Arts is very unusual. A possible explanation may be a result of the change UCD made to their new Social Science programme which seems to be attracting a lot of new interest this year. UCD have traditionally attracted the greatest number of applicants to their Arts programme. The Social and Behavioural Sciences courses increased by 4% thereby adding credence to this theory. University College Dublin said it continued to be university of first choice in Ireland, with an increased share of first preferences for Level 8 degrees to 13.7pc.
- Information and Communication Technologies: There is a chronic skills shortage in IT and this years’ CAO applicants are not helping the situation. There appears to be a downward spiralling interest in this area. Last year’s figures were down by 5% and the 2018 figures are down by a further 16%. With so many tech companies locating to Ireland, it is disappointing that young people aren’t more attracted to this sector. On a more hopeful note the BSc in Data Science in DCU is up by 17% in first preference choices. In a recent survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, data analysts are predicted to be one of the most highly sought employees in the near future.
- Journalism and Information: Down by 36% this year. The precarious nature of this job and the rapid change this sector is undergoing may explain the drop-off in interest here.
- Physical Sciences This sector is down by 36% on first preferences which is another disappointment in attracting students in the STEM area.
- Transport Services: First preference applications down by 50%
What does it all mean?
Demand is generally a good indicator of whether or not points will increase or fall. Where there is significant growth in applications for particular courses there is greater competition for each available course place, which will in turn translate into higher CAO points.
Where applications for a course drop or remain similar, CAO points will generally remain steady or may even fall.
A total of 72,643 applications were received by CAO by the 1st February closing date, a decrease of 3,343 applicants on the previous year – 317 of these applicants were Advanced Entry* applicants. The final figure is likely to be slightly higher with late applications accepted until 1st May.
*From 2015, the CAO processes applications for entry to years 2, 3 and 4 of undergraduate courses in some Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). This entry route is known as Advanced Entry.
|Note: The data provided at this stage is interim data and is subject to change when late applications are taken into account and the ‘Change of Mind’ facility closes on 1 July at 5:15pm.|
Overall 2018 CAO data shows:
- An decrease in Level 8 applications (down by 2,543 from 65,294 in 2017 to 62,751 in 2018)
- A decrease in Level 6/7 applications (Down 3,606 from 34,345 in 2017 to 30,739 in 2018). This may indicate a tendency by CAO applicants to delay filling in their Level 6/7 options until a later stage in the process.
Mature Applicant Numbers are down
There was a total of 8,539 applications from mature applicants (over 23 years of age) – down 1,168 on 2017.
Speaking about the application figures, Communications Officer for CAO, Eileen Keleghan, commented: “The majority of CAO applicants will be permitted to use the ‘Change of Mind’ facility when it opens on May 4th to add, remove or re-order course choices, which will result in changes to the figures released today”.
Late applications are currently being accepted up to May 1st at 5:15pm – to apply to CAO go to www.cao.ie and click on ‘Apply’.
All CAO applicants will receive a ‘Statement of Application Record’ before the end of May, and CAO advises applicants to read this document carefully. The Statement of Application Record will contain details of important information held on file for the applicant – including course choices and examination details – and any errors or omissions identified in this document must be communicated to CAO immediately.
Applicants are advised to contact CAO using the ‘Contact’ page on the CAO website.