College entry standards set to be higher

Entry requirements for hundreds of college courses will be higher than ever on Monday, as hundreds more students than last year have scored top Leaving Certificate points.

The 43,968 Leaving Certificate students who have applied to the CAO are 800 fewer than last year.

However, the 5,140 students with at least 500 points — out of a maximum 600 before the maths bonus points are counted — are an increase of 350 on last year, when a smaller improvement was a factor in points going up on hundreds of level 8 (honours bachelor) degrees.

The figures obtained by the Irish Examiner do not take account of the 25 bonus points that almost 11,000 students who passed higher-level maths will be given. They are based on State Examinations Commission data given to the CAO on the results of all 52,589 school-leavers, but do not include those with Leaving Certificate Applied, which is not counted towards CAO points.

The figures show that:

n150, or 0.3% of students, scored 600 points (six higher-level A1s), nine more than last year;

n1,465 (2.8%) have 550 to 595 points, up from 1,381 (2.5%) a year ago;

n3,525 (6.7%) got 500 to 545 points, compared to 3,262 (6%) in 2011;

nThe 10,703 (20.4% of all Leaving Certificate students) with at least 450 points is up from 10,211 (18.8%).

While the figures do not reflect the likely impact of bonus points for maths, they suggest there has been no significant reversal of grades in other subjects for students who put in the extra time to pursue higher-level maths.

Any widespread rise in points may justify concerns by many senior education figures about the distortive effect of the bonus points scheme, particularly the possible disadvantage to students aiming for degrees without a maths requirement, but who may be competing with those who took higher-level maths.

The issue was raised yesterday by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, which said the bonus points should only apply for courses with high maths content, such as science degrees which have gained popularity this year.

However, many arts, social science, and teaching courses may see points drop slightly due to falling demand for places, even in spite of the improved Leaving Certificate performance and bonus points.

It is also possible many high-performing students with a D or C3 grade in higher-level maths, worth up to 85 points, might gain no advantage if they have similar or more CAO points from a B1 or better in six other higher-level subjects.


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