Thousands to alter college choices before CAO ‘deadline day’
Change of mind: Applicants being drawn to courses linked to areas of the growing economy
The volume of students modifying their course selection in the days before the CAO deadline has risen sharply in recent years, sparking a flurry of marketing among higher education institutions and professional bodies. Photograph: Getty Images
Thousands of students are expected to make final changes to their college choices ahead of the CAO’s “deadline day”.
As many as half of all Leaving Cert students now use the Central Applications Office’s change-of-mind facility which closes at 5.15pm on Saturday to add, remove or reorder their choices.
Latest data on course choices shows applicants this year are being drawn to courses linked to areas of the growing economy, with increases in demand for architecture, construction, law and business-related courses.
These increased numbers of applications are likely to result in points increases for many courses in these areas.
However, points decreases are likely in areas such as nursing and education due to a reduction in applications, possibly linked to difficulties facing young graduates securing jobs and controversy over two-tier pay scales.
The number of students seeking college places in engineering and technology has also fallen despite high-profile attempts to tackle what employers says is a “skills crisis” facing the sector.
Overall, the number seeking colleges places in 2017 is set to match last year’s record number of just over 76,000.
The volume of students modifying their course selection in the days before the CAO deadline has risen sharply in recent years, sparking a flurry of marketing activity among higher education institutions and professional bodies.
NUI Galway, for example, hosted a”big decision” event on Facebook Live for students and parents in response to demand for information around courses and campus activities.
Sligo IT has taken a different approach and is to highlight new research showing the lower living and rental costs in the northwest compared to Dublin and Galway.
Professional bodies such as Engineers Ireland has launched a big drive to try to attract more female applicants to courses in the sector over the coming days to tackle “critical skills shortages” emerging in the engineering and technology sectors.
Careers experts say they expect some movement in course selection trends once the CAO’s “change-of-mind” window closes.
Latest figures show that at honours degree level, the biggest increases in first preferences have been in agriculture/horticulture (up 17 per cent), healthcare courses for areas such as sports, nutrition and occupational therapy (up 17 per cent) and the construction sector (11 per cent).
There have also been significant increases in law, veterinary medicine (up 9 per cent), architecture (up 7 per cent) and dentistry (up 5 per cent).
By contrast, the number of applications has fallen in areas such as nursing, education and engineering.
A 5 per cent drop in the number of first-preference applications for engineering and technology is likely to alarm industry groups, who say the sector urgently needs more skilled graduates.
The biggest single drop is in nursing (down 10 per cent), though this may be partly influenced by the removal of courses for mature students in the sector.
There are other significant falls in areas such as pharmacy (down 8 per cent), physiotherapy (down 4 per cent) and education (down 3 per cent).
Among the universities, Maynooth University and Dublin City University have been some of the big winners, recording their highest ever level of first-preference applications.
Trinity College Dublin’s first preferences were up almost 2 per cent, while UCD’s were down 2.7 per cent following a decade of growing numbers.