Students hope to click with film and IT courses

IRELAND’S graduates of the future have used their fingers to click on computing, software and gaming courses in the hope of not having to vote with their feet and look overseas for work.

The country’s growing reputation in the film, animation technology and games industries seem to have had a big influence on Irish teenagers in their college applications if the entry requirements for dozens of degree programmes are anything to go by.

The biggest points rises in this year’s Round 1 CAO offers are for two degrees at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire — Animation and Modelmaking, Design and Digital Effects. Students selected for both courses need at least 130 points more than those getting in last year, including marks for portfolio work submitted earlier this year.

A games development computing degree at Dundalk Institute of Technology is only open to students with 330 Leaving Certificate points — 20 more than last year and up from 245 two years ago — and NUI Maynooth’s product design degree is up 25 points to 360.

In the technology sector, one of the biggest points jumps is an increase of 80 to 410 for a place in Dublin City University’s digital media engineering degree, aimed at students with high standards in maths who will develop the next generation of software and imaging for gaming, phones, medical and other applications.

At the same college, mechatronic engineering commands 370 points, 60 more than last year, while a dozen computer science and engineering degrees nationally are up between 15 and 55 points.

“Demand for science, engineering and agriculture programmes reflect the career focus of many students,” said Professor Mark Rogers, acting deputy president of University College Dublin (UCD).

As the country’s biggest college, the rises in points for UCD’s computer science (up 35 to 410), science (20 higher than last year at 455) and engineering degrees (up 5 points to 530), strongly reflect trends across the country.

But while the rising standard of entrants to such programmes is welcome news for colleges and prospective employers, there may be further controversy about selection of undergraduates students for medicine degrees. Entry to all five medical schools requires around 10 points more than in 2010.

This is the third year that they have ranked students based on a combination of their Leaving Certificate points and scores from the Health Professions Admission Test (HPAT).

The aptitude test, which was taken by more than 3,000 applicants last February for just over 300 available places, is marked out of 300 and average scores are in the 150 to 170 range.

Last year, students who did very well in the HPAT got into medicine programmes with 520 to 540 Leaving Certificate points, compared to a minimum 570 out of 600 needed under the old system. But unsuccessful students with better exam results, who might previously have been admitted on the basis of their Leaving Certificate grades alone, have been angered by the changes in the system’s first two years.

Most other health profession courses are also up this year, including veterinary medicine at UCD, which is up 5 to 565 points. The country’s four physiotherapy degrees are each up five or 10 points and now require 530 to 565 points.

Applicants to dairy business, forestry, equine and agricultural science degrees at UCD need 10 to 40 points more than those who got places in Round 1 a year ago, after almost 700 CAO applicants listed one of the country’s seven agriculture and horticulture level 8 programmes as their first choice, which is 28% more than a year ago.

Elsewhere, points are up for more than three-quarters of the 89 nursing degrees on offer, the biggest jumps being in courses for mature applicants, who are mostly chosen on basis other than points.

Two-thirds of science degrees require more points than last year and almost half of the 24 science courses that are up between 25 and 65 points are in the biomedical and genetics field.

Of 171 level 8 business and administration degrees, points are down for more than 60, nearly half of those by 20 points or more. But nearly 60 others are harder to get into than in 2010, with most of the biggest rises in courses with foreign languages or linked to the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Business with Event Management at Limerick Institute of Technology, for example, is up by 50 points to 250 and the 500 points needed for UCC’s Commerce (International) with French is 55 more than a year ago.

But falling job prospects in some areas of the public and private sectors have seen a drop in demand for places fall in many study disciplines.

Points are down for more than half of all law degrees, while fewer points are needed for three of the four biggest primary teaching degrees, after 5% fewer CAO applicants than last year listed an education degree as their first choice.

A big drop in students listing architecture as their first preference is reflected in drops of 65 and 25 points for degrees at Dublin Institute of Technology and UCC/Cork Institute of Technology, respectively.

Although the 400 points needed for Waterford Institute of Technology’s architecture degree is the same as last year, the round 1 points were as high as 470 three years ago. Similarly, University of Limerick’s architecture degree is unchanged but is 60 points lower than in 2009.

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