Leaving Cert Results: Students face anxious wait for third-level place offers

The next big wait for most students getting results today is on the offer of third-level college places from next Monday.

More than 47,000 of those who sat this year’s Leaving Certificate applied to the Central Applications Office (CAO) for entry to some of the 41 colleges which use the system to select first-year students.

These 47,000 students are among a record 80,000-plus applicants competing for an estimated 50,000 places available through the CAO this year.

With increased demand for some types of courses, including business, engineering, and technology degrees, any changes in points requirements over last year’s levels will also depend on whether colleges open up extra places or on the standard of those students applying to each.

The awarding of slightly fewer higher level A1s — worth 100 CAO points and 125 in the case of maths — may also have some slight moderating effect on entry requirements for some courses.

State Examinations Commission figures show that 6,279 students got at least one such top grade, down from 6,654 a year ago. Among them are 2,532 with two or more higher level A1s and 1,341 with at least three, down from 2,936 and 1,577, respectively in 2015.

With big focus again on the pressures of securing the necessary CAO points for college places, Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne called for more meaningful and ambitious reforms of the college entry system. He also called for the restoration of ringfenced guidance counselling provision to all second-level schools, as some counsellors have been returned to teaching duties due to other staffing cuts.

“Without specialist guidance advice, young people find it difficult to cope with the huge range of options that are open to them,” said Mr Byrne.

“This is especially true to students who do not have parents or older siblings who have gone through third-level and lack personal knowledge about the higher education system.”

Training and Skills Minister John Halligan encouraged students to consider courses in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) sectors, as growing areas of the economy.

Employers’ organisation Ibec said it was encouraging to see more students take science subjects, and to see more than one-in-five of all who sat maths papers to pass the higher level exams, up from 13% in five years.

However, its senior education and innovation policy executive, Claire McGee, says positive work in improving maths and STEM skills of second level-students needs to continue.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland said that, in addition to third-level options, students should consider the wide range of choices in the further education and post-Leaving Certificate colleges.

The points for all CAO courses, and how they compare to last year’s Round 1 points, will appear in the 12-page Choices for College supplement in next Monday’s Irish Examiner.

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