Chalk Talk

News and views in education


Points set to rise again
The demand for third-level places is up again this year. By the first CAO closing date, on February 1st, 73,053 applications had been made for college places next September.

That’s an increase of 1,902 since this stage last year, and is due in part to an increase in Leaving Cert numbers next June.

The gradual increase in the birth rate since the late 1990s will see Leaving Cert numbers grow from about 52,000 currently to 75,000 in 10 years.

This jump will feed into more CAO applications and, unless there’s an increase in places, higher points for all courses in the coming years.

The CAO’s €25 early-bird fee for applications before January 20th saw their number increase again this year, to 61,235 (up 2,874 since last year).

The fee for the 11,818 applications that came in after 20th January 2014 was €40, giving the CAO an additional €472,720, of which €177,270 was for the later payment. The payments bring the CAO’s income from 2014 applicants to just over €2 million so far.

Applicants who want to add a programme to their course choice list can do so this month for an additional €10.

This is only if you’re adding a restricted-application course (involving portfolio or interview). Any other courses can be added with no extra charge in May and June, under the change-of-mind facility.

Anyone who wants to apply to the CAO but hasn’t yet can do so after March 5th until the final closing for online applications, May 1st, with a €50 fee. About 6,000 students usually make applications during that late application period.

The effect of the additional 2,000 applicants (so far) on entry points for popular courses won’t be clear until after July 1st. Points tend to rise in disciplines where there is a strong public perception of good-quality employment. Areas such as technology, pharmaceutical science, computer science and agriculture and food may have upward points pressure in 2014.

More science on show
If your appetite was whetted at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition last month, there’s another chance for second-level students to showcase their science, technology, engineering and maths projects at SciFest, a series of one-day science fairs.

The winner from each of the one-day fairs, which take place at the 14 institutes of technology and the University of Ulster in Derry, go on to a national final in November. The national winner of SciFest will represent Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2015, in Pittsburgh, in the US.

Last year 5,368 students exhibited 2,262 projects. The national winner was Paul Clarke from Raheny, Dublin, who also won the top award at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. He solved a mathematical problem that had been baffling mathematicians since the 1930s.

A second finalist, Conor Foy from Coláiste Chiaráin in Croom, Co Limerick, is also representing Ireland at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair , in Los Angeles in May. He developed a system to improve the performance of rowing crews. For more information, and an entry form – the closing date is March 7th – see

Help with postgrad decisions
If you’re weighing up the costs-versus-employability equation in considering postgraduate study, tomorrow’s postgradireland Further Study Fair, at the RDS, might help with decisions. It includes an Association of Higher Education Careers Services advice clinic, plus information on funding, applications and courses, as well as free seminars on applications, studying abroad, and conversion courses. Register for free entry at

The Irish Times Debate
The semi-finals of the Irish Times Debate begin tomorrow at the Cadet School, Curragh Camp, with competitors debating whether to commemorate the first World War. The second semi-final (on Thursday at University College Cork) will debate whether to condemn the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The remaining semi-finals are on February 20th and 21st, in Kings Inns and Queen’s University Belfast, with the final on the February 28th in Dublin. To attend, email

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