COLLEGE applications have dropped from last year’s record high, but almost 76,000 people are still competing for entry to third-level courses in the autumn.
The final entry data from the Central Applications Office (CAO) also shows that student interest is continuing to rise in science, technology and engineering degrees, though arts and social science programmes remain by far the most popular, with 27% of applicants making the subjects their first preference.
The figures have been compiled on the basis of the final course lists provided by the 75,874 CAO entrants up to last Friday’s deadline for changing course choice.
Although this is a slight reduction on the 77,480 applicants at this stage a year ago, it is unclear if this is due to a fall in demand.
There is greater availability than last year of free college courses offered through Government initiatives for jobless people seeking to improve or widen their qualifications.
For example, many of the 6,000 higher education places for the unemployed offered through the Springboard scheme could be taken up by those who would otherwise have applied through the CAO.
While about 45,000 students who sat their Leaving Certificate last month must wait until they get results in mid-August to find out if they secure a place through the CAO, 7,374 people have already been offered places.
These include mature students, those who deferred places last year and those who need to make visa arrangements before taking up a college place.
Applications opened last week for the 2011/2012 student grants scheme for which the Department of Education has set aside €386 million, €24m more than last year’s spend because of rising numbers of eligible students and more people qualifying for higher levels of support.
There have been no major changes to the proportion of first preferences for courses under each of the 17 categories of level 8 (honours bachelor degree) courses, but there is rising demand for science and applied science (up from 11.1% to 12% of first preferences) and engineering/technology programmes (up slightly to 9.3%).
Between them, they account for 14,235 of this year’s 66,889 level 8 first preferences, almost 600 more than a year ago.
The level of attraction to science, engineering and technology is contrasted by slight falls in the numbers seeking entry to education degrees (5,239 or 7.8% of level 8 first preferences) and administration or business courses. The latter category still, however, accounts for more than 10,300 first preferences at level 8.
Nursing degrees continue to attract huge demand, as they are listed as the favoured honours degree for almost 5,800 applicants, up slightly from last year to almost 9% of applications overall.
For level 7 and 6 courses (ordinary bachelor degrees and certificate programmes), arts and social science courses appear 41,000 times on the choices of more than 51,045 who filled the appropriate application, and were the first preference of 10,277.
But they were third favourite to courses falling under the administration/business and engineering/technology categories.
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