Most universities have reduced the number of courses available to Leaving Certificate students through the Central Applications Office (CAO) in a first significant move to help slow down the college points race.
The 562 university honours (level 8) degrees for which school leavers can apply through the CAO is down 17, from 579 a year ago.
The falls should not mean fewer places for prospective applicants as many courses have been merged for entry purposes, allowing students to specialise after first-year in, for example, a particular branch of engineering or science.
Although only a modest fall, the move indicates that proposals are finally being acted on by college bosses to reduce pressure on students to get top results in the Leaving Certificate for access to hundreds of degrees.
Other than TCD, where more degrees are offered this year than in 2014, NUI Galway’s CAO degree options remain unchanged at 53 and all the rest of the universities have reduced their offering since last year, as follows:
Maynooth University: down 10 to 40 degrees (42 offered in 2011).
Dublin City University: down 5 to 63 (55 in 2011).
University College Dublin: down 3 to 43 (56 in 2011).
University College Cork: down 3 to 55 (51 in 2011).
University of Limerick: down 1 to 66 (68 in 2011).
The number of level 8 degrees at all 44 CAO colleges jumped from 542 in 2003 to 942 a year ago. This has meant many popular courses have fewer places and are restricted to only the highest -performing Leaving Certificate students.
This was one of the key issues raised when questions around the transition from second-level to third-level were discussed in 2011 at a conference organised at the request of then education minister Ruairi Quinn.
One of the main recommendations to emerge was that colleges, and universities in particular, offer fewer and broader entry routes for students to choose from. UCD has taken the lead, by merging 36 former entry-level programmes to six between 2010 and 2014, and its 43 CAO codes this year compares to 56 in 2011.
But the Irish Examiner had reported a year ago most universities had done little or nothing to reduce course choices.
Dublin City University’s level 8 degrees listed in the CAO rose from 55 to 68 in three years to 2014, and those at Maynooth University jumped from 42 to 50.
Trinity College Dublin accounted last year for 237 (41%) of the 579 level 8 degrees at the seven universities to which Leaving Certificate students could apply, but that is up to 242 this year.
The total of 562 degrees are five fewer than in 2011, when it was suggested they allow students choose broader entry routes, choosing for example a common engineering or science programme through CAO, with the chance to pick a more specialised area later.
The eight-page Choices for College supplement inside gives advice to CAO applicants on career and course options, filling the forms, and key dates, plus 2014 CAO Round 1 points for all CAO courses.
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