Observable trends in jungle of CAO statistics

Within an overall picture of points generally falling, there are some trends of note within the annual jungle of statistics surrounding the Central Applications Office (CAO) first-round offers.

Sally Quirke and Holly Wolfe receive their Leaving Certificate results at Hewitt College, Patrick's Hill, Cork, on August 16.

In broad terms, close to two-thirds of honours (level 8 ) degrees require the same or fewer points than last year. They include more than 420 of the 800, around 53%, of all those that are directly comparable year-on-year.

Almost a tenth command the same points as a year ago, even with the vast majority of courses’ cutoff points no longer ending in a 5 or 0 as a result of the new points for each of the revised Leaving Certificate grades. However, the number is down to around 70, versus close to 200 a year ago.

And for just over 300, or nearly 40% of comparable level 8 courses, points have gone up.

Looking specifically at degrees at the the seven universities, 204 out of 326 (62%) require the same or fewer points than at the same stage in 2016, almosts exactly the same as for all level 8 courses.

The figure masks big differences, however, as points are up for 19 out of 35 courses at University of Limerick but for just four degrees at Maynooth University, which was also offering places a year ago.

Swings in either direction are limited to 10 points or less on around half of all 800 level 8 courses in 35 colleges offering places on them this morning. Close to two-thirds (more than 500) level 8 courses require points within 15 of last year, an almost identical situation to this time in 2016.

Of the 305 degrees requiring higher points, the rise is 15 or less for more than two-thirds of them.

Within the different categories of courses, trends similar to the overall picture emerge, but with some exceptions.

Although they are small in numbers, 16 of the 26 level 8 degrees relating to architecture and specifically to construction command higher entry points than a year ago. While this may be a signal of growing demand in line with political and media emphasis on housing and other building demand, most are modest points increases.

An exception is Waterford Institute of Technology’s sustainable energy engineering, up 47 points to 332 this year.

Conversely, UCD’s decision to increase places on its architecture degree to 64 saw a reversal of last year’s point increase, and it is down 23 points to 492.

While points are down or unchanged for over half the 120 engineering and technology Honours degrees, the 44% for which points have risen is significant compared to numbers in other categories.

This is also despite a 4% drop in applicants listing one of those programmes as their first preference this year, perhaps suggesting that they are appealing to a reducing but higher-performing group of students.

The picture is similar for science degrees, as close to 40% of them need higher points despite a slight fall in CAO applicants placing them top of their lists. However, the increases are limited to less than 10 points or fewer in the case of around half the 50 courses concerned.

However, the analysis comes with the disadvantage that information is not yet available on the effect of tweaks to the points system on the overall points scores of this year’s Leaving Certificate students.

This time last year, for example, we knew that there was a slight fall in the proportion of school-leavers whose CAO points were in the top ranks.

There is also the possibility that the offering of 1,700 more students a place on a level 8 course (up from 41,422 to 43,113 since last year) could have been a factor.

In UCD, for example, a 75% increase in places on its economics BA from 20 to 35, has been a factor in Round 1 points dropping from 495 to 488. However, this represents one of the few remaining options for UCD applicants to choose a major subject before entry.

Its broad-entry BA arts degree will fill around 1,200 places with students selecting specialisations later from among 24 subjects. The points are up very slightly on this time last year, from 320 to 326, but this follows a drop of 20 points across the previous two years and is still nine lower than the 2015 Round 1 cut-off.

Students can get into Arts at NUI Galway with the same 300 points as last year, or with 346 points at UCC, nine fewer than the 2016 Round 1 cut-off.

Points are down for entry to all but 10 teaching degrees after a 3% fall to less than 5,000 first-preference applications.

However, any changes are mostly in the range of 10 points more or less than last year. The points needed for primary teaching at Dublin City University and Mary Immaculate College, Limerick — which have the biggest intake of future primary school teachers — are down three to 462 and up one to 466.

Despite points falling for nearly two-thirds of university degrees, there were still big rises in some areas. The points rose by 55 to 390 for computing with media development at Institute of Technology Tralee, for example, and by 54 to 289 for Dublin Business School’s Business (psychology) degree.

Slight falls in some medicine entry points a year ago have been reversed, with increases of two or four points showing for each of the five undergraduate courses for which applicants combine scores in their Leaving Certificate with the HPAT test taken earlier in the year.

The Round 1 cutoff points
for every courses in the CAO system this year are published, along with the corresponding Round 1 and Final Round points for 2016, in the 12-page Choices for College supplement inside today’s Irish Examiner.


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