Surge in points required to access courses

Points for more than 200 college courses have risen by 25 points this year, with science, computing, and maths accounting for almost a quarter of those.

Points for one in three courses offered by the Central Applications Office this morning have dropped.

The extra 25 points given to almost 11,000 higher-level maths students appear to have had some impact on the minimum entry standards for many of the 50,000 students being offered places this morning.

However, there are also sharp points falls in many degree and other courses, from certificates up to level 8 degrees.

Any overall increases may be more to do with general improvement in students’ exam performance than the maths bonus points. Figures in Saturday’s Irish Examiner showed record numbers with at least 450 points, and with 500 points or more, even before the maths bonus was added.

A similar improvement last year saw points go up for more than 500 courses, although some of the increases are steeper this year.

The biggest rises among the 1,300-plus college courses are on many of the science, computing, and maths programmes, which have attracted significant extra demand this year. For example, more than 50 level 8 science degrees require 25 points more than a year ago.

Almost all nursing degrees need higher points, although only one-in-three is up more than 10 points. Some large points increases are evident on level 7 and 6 programmes, suggesting many applicants with higher-level maths may have applied for them, but those rises could also reflect fewer available places. For example, two of the biggest increases are 80 points and 115 points for two catering-related courses at Dublin Institute of Technology.

Higher points are needed for just over 500 of the 1,200 courses with comparable figures for last year, more than 200 of them needing at least 25 more points. But points are down for more than 400 courses, with some notable trends:

*Most business degrees need the same or fewer points than last year;

*Points for most university arts degrees are down, dropping by 40 points at NUI Galway;

*Only 40% of engineering degrees need higher points.

A slight drop in applications to below 76,000 and the offering of places to 500 more students than this time last year could be factors in an anticipated wholesale points surge not materialising.

The increased academic standards for many courses will be welcomed by third level and employer figures concerned about many school leavers’ ability to keep pace on difficult degrees. “Regardless of the motivation around the introduction of bonus maths points, the fact that we can make more offers to suitably qualified candidates for engineering is to be welcomed,” said Professor Mark Rogers, deputy president of University College Dublin, where points for engineering rose by 30 to 460.

But the continuing upward points trend will equally increase pressure for reforms of the college entry system, on which Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is awaiting plans from university leaders. A number of changes were proposed after a major conference on the topic 11 months ago, including changes to the Leaving Certificate grading system, but little movement towards implementing reforms has followed.

Disappointed candidates urged to consider number of options

Offers for second round places could be scarce

Difficult to gauge impact of inaugural bonus points for maths

Fewer properties available for students


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