Latest CAO data reveals rise in demand for business, engineering and tech courses

Business, engineering, and technology are among college degrees that have seen the biggest rises in demand among students, latest Central Applications Office (CAO) data reveal.

Of 71,288 people who have applied for honour (level 8) degrees, up nearly 2% on last year, business and administration programmes remain second only to arts and social science courses.

The 12,500 applicants picking one of 200 business-related degrees as their top choice account for 17.6% of all first preferences, a figure that has risen each year from 2013 when it was 16.7%.

Following a big jump in demand last year, engineering and technology degrees have grown in popularity even further, up from 11.1% a year ago to 11.6% of all level 8 first preferences.

While some categories show big rises in demand, applicants should not fear automatic increases in Leaving Certificate points or other entry requirements in those subject areas.

The figures are based on the final course lists of CAO applicants after the option to change their choices or order of preference ended on July 1. The majority of around 47,000 places expected to be filled by third-level colleges will be offered to applicants on Monday, August 22, following the previous week’s Leaving Certificate results.

The points for every CAO course are determined not just by the number of applicants, but also by the standard of those applicants, with their Leaving Certificate results used to rank them. There can also be fluctuations to CAO points requirements due to any changes in the number of places available on a course since the previous year.

While 8,248 people have an engineering or technology course as their first choice, they still lag behind almost 9,500 whose top preference is for a level 8 science degree. However, science degrees are down overall in popularity each year since 2013, from 14.1% to 13.2% this year.

Engineers Ireland welcomed what it described as a surge in interest in engineering, construction, and technology-related courses,

Only 13 of 1,100 level 8 degrees this year are categorised as ‘built environment’. They have seen a rise of over 100 first preferences to 632 since last year, but still account for less than 1% of all level 8 applicants.

Similarly, applicants to 11 architecture and related degrees rose by 6%, but those 742 people make up just another 1% of all first preferences.

Engineers Ireland director general Caroline Spillane said that, despite rises in engineering and technology applications, far greater numbers of graduates are still needed with critical and creative numerical skills.

“The technology sector is facing a severe skills shortage and the education system is not able to produce enough graduates to meet demand,” said Ms Spillane.

More than 16,000 level 8 first preferences are for arts and social science, but they are down from 25% of applicants’ first choice in 2013 to 22.6% this year. Nursing sees a renewed increase in demand as the first choice of 5,945 people, or 8.3% of level 8 applicants.

With 5,084 first preferences, demand for teaching degrees is up slightly on last year but down as a proportion of all top choices. Law degrees continue to attract more interest year on year, as 2,638 level applicants’ first choice, up from 3% to almost 4% since 2013.

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