Arts, business and science top college choices

Arts, business and science courses still account for the top choice of over half of college applicants but there are drops in student interest in art, medicine and nursing degrees.

The trends emerge from final figures from the Central Applications Office (CAO) on the choices of just under 78,000 people who hope to get onto one of over 1,400 courses on offer this year. The total number seeking places is up 2% on the 76,121 who applied in 2013, of whom 46,129 got a place through the CAO system.

While applications closed earlier in the summer, applicants had until July 1 to finalise the order of their choices and just under one-in-four of the 68,737 who applied for an honours bachelors (level 8) degree listed an arts or social science course as their first preference.

Arts, business and science top college choices

The 16,869 who did so is slightly below last year’s figure, and down from just over one-in-four of all level 8 (honours degree) applicants in 2013. But arts courses remain by far the most popular, while second-placed business degrees have crept up slightly.

There is a slight dip in the proportion of applicants listing science degrees as their first preference, although this follows a significant rise in their popularity over recent years. Between them, arts, business and science degrees account for 55% of students’ first choices, down very slightly on a year ago.

Elsewhere, there were more considerable drops in students seeking entry to other categories of courses. The 2,225 listing an art or design degree as their top choice make up 3.2% of all level 8 course applicants, down from 3.6% a year ago, and interest in these courses has been slightly outstripped by that for law degrees.

The 5,572 students pinning their hopes on nursing degrees account for 8.1% of all first-preferences, down from 8.8% in 2013, while those listing medicine as their number one choice made up 4.2% of all level 8 applicants. This is down slightly also on last year, although like all courses, a drop in demand might not necessarily result in corresponding falls in entry requirements.

Changes to the minimum CAO points needed for each course are dictated each year not just by demand, but also by any rise or fall in the number of places available, and by the performance of students who applied. In the case of medicine, students combine Leaving Certificate results with scores from the HPAT aptitude test taken in the spring to determine who is accepted.

There have been significant increases in numbers applying for courses under the ‘built environment’ and ‘other healthcare’ headings. But changes to the number of courses in these much smaller categories can have a disproportionate influence on the proportions of all students applying to them.

CAO first-round offers will be made on Monday, August 18, although some mature and overseas students have already been offered places in preliminary rounds earlier this month and again this week.

The State Examinations Commission will provide exam results to nearly 55,000 Leaving Certificate students on Wednesday, August 13, and 45,728 of those have applied to the CAO.


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