It has 10 fewer courses for school-leavers to choose from than in 2011. Since 2010, it has merged or “collapsed” 35 courses which previously had individual applications through the CAO into just six, beginning with arts and engineering. For example, the undenominated engineering degree at UCD combines the intake that previously had seven different specialised types of engineering to choose from.
The college also, generally speaking, gives students freedom on which area they choose to specialise for second year. For example, there could be 100 second-year students of mechanical engineering and 30 or 40 who have chosen civil engineering, but the figures might be reversed a year later depending on student demand.
Other areas were added in 2011, when nine science degrees were collapsed into one entry code and six rel-ated to agricultural science. The same year saw options of commerce with a language merged into a single “commerce international” code for CAO purposes, cutting out the annual see-saw of points which shifted according to which language was popular in any particular year.
“We know that students like this system, and the fact they can experience the wider subjects before making decisions,” said UCD registrar and deputy president Mark Rogers.
But, he said, the points for these undenominated or non-specialised entry courses are not necessarily lower than those for all courses incorporated into them. They may, however, require students to have fewer points than some of the merged degrees which historically had very limited places.
“The issue is around those programmes where the number of places was very small, then if you move to a broader-entry course, the average points certainly drop and it takes pressure off students applying with a view to those previously high-entry programmes,” he said.
This reflects the point made by some higher education admissions officers that broad-entry degrees may not be the ultimate solution to the high-stakes pressures at the top end of the points race.
There are also the issues beyond the control of universities, particularly in the health and medical disciplines where places available are restricted by government policy. This means that, for example, entry to undergraduate medical schools will continue to be restricted to those with very high Leaving Certificate points — notwithstanding any impact of the HPAT aptitude system also used to select students — as long as supply of places is limited.
Likewise the number of places on nursing degrees — spread out over a dozen colleges — is tightly regulated and has been set at 1,570 since 2009, down from 1,800 in 2006-2008.