Rapid uptake as 23,000 accept CAO offers on first day

O’Sullivan questions need for large number of courses offered by third level institutions

Fifteen thousand students have accepted course offers in the first few hours after they were posted on the CAO website this morning. Photograph: Getty

Fifteen thousand students have accepted course offers in the first few hours after they were posted on the CAO website this morning. Photograph: Getty

Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 17:20

Almost 23,000 students have accepted course offers in the first day after they were posted on the CAO website.

A total of 22,995 students logged onto cao.ie between 6am and 5pm today to accept their places in third level.

A total of 50,000 students received course offers today on the CAO website.

A CAO spokeswoman said “everything is running smoothly”, and that there have been no technical problems with cao.ie.

Demand for science and technology courses has grown considerably this year in a sign that Government and industry efforts to attract school leavers to these high growth sectors are bearing fruit.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan today urged higher education institutions to reduce the number of course offerings on the CAO to lessen the complexity of the system and give greater flexibility to third level students.

“I think it’s confusing to have so many courses and some of them have very small numbers of places and that has an effect on points,” she said.

The Minister said a working group on the transition between secondary and third-level education was due to report before the end of the year on reforms to the college entry system.

While she would await its publication before making any policy recommendations, she said she would like to see fewer courses in total and instead the greater use of “common entry” courses which would allow young people to specialise later in their studies.

The number of CAO course codes at higher degree (level 8) rose from 903 in 2013 to 941 this year. An analysis by The Irish Times shows that only 43 of the more than 900 higher degree (level 8) courses listed on the CAO offered 100 or more places in 2013. In contrast, 329 had 15 or fewer places, and 42 had three or fewer.

A number of universities have renewed their commitment to reform the college entry system and to reverse the trend of designing “prestige” or niche courses simply to attract high points candidates.

DCU president, Prof Brian MacCraith said he was glad to see an increasing demand for common entry programmes this year. “As we move - along with our university partners - to ‘take the heat’ out of the Points Race, there will be an increasing focus on broader entry routes which will reduce the pressure on students and provide enhanced flexibility for them.”

UCD’s deputy president Prof Mark Rogers said he was “on record as questioning the validity of having hundreds of CAO entry codes for level 8 degrees… By broadening the entry routes and reducing the number of CAO codes we are being fairer to a wider number of students.”

TCD said it had “long recognised that the pressure of the points race needs to be addressed” and in line with the other universities and institutes of technology, it was “working to reduce the pressure on school-leavers and ease the transition from second to third-level”.

Today’s CAO figures show the entry requirement for the country’s biggest science course at UCD rose by 10 points to 515, an 18 per cent increase over five years.

Points for engineering, architecture, construction studies, business and law also rose across a range of universities and institutes of technology.

The rise in points for technology-related courses is linked to the record number of Leaving Cert students who got 25 bonus points this year for passing higher level maths.

Other initiatives such as Project Maths, investment in science education and the provision of extra course places in technology disciplines have been credited by higher education institutions with pushing up demand.

Reflecting increased confidence in the building sector, one of the biggest jumps was in architecture. At UCD, points for architecture rose 25 to 490; at UCC they rose 20 to 420; and at UL they rose 10 to 385.

Points for engineering courses also rose: by 20 to 495 at UCD, and by 5 points at TCD, UL and DIT to 470, 405 and 355 respectively.

Science at TCD rose by 5 points to 515, which compares to a final points requirement of 455 in 2010. Science at DCU rose 10 points to 460, a 23 per cent rise over five years, while at DIT points for science rose 30 points to 435.

Demand for computer science also rose, although the increase in points was checked in some institutions by the provision of extra places. At NUI Maynooth, the BSc in computational thinking – which offered 12 places last year – was up 20 points to 520.

In contrast, points for the university’s computer science degree through arts dropped 35 points to 350 and through science from 45 points to 360 due to the fact the student intake on the two courses is increasing from 100 to 150.

Points for computer science at UCD remained static at 470 as the student intake there is increasing from 35 to 105.