College applications up strongly for physiotherapy, dentistry and pharmacy, CAO figures show

Finding comes from office’s ‘change of mind’ data, which details students’ third level course choices as of July 1st deadline

Over 83,000 applications were received by the CAO, down very slightly on last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

College applications for physiotherapy, dentistry and pharmacy courses have seen the largest growth on last year, according to the latest figures from the Central Applications Office (CAO).

However, health, business and arts courses remain the most popular courses for third-level applicants.

Over 83,000 applications have been received by the CAO, down very slightly on last year, its “change of mind” data shows, which captures students’ course choices as of the July 1st deadline.

More than half of applicants amended their course listings in the May-June period.


Most Leaving Cert students are due to receive their college offers in round one of the CAO offers on August 28th.

The extent to which CAO entry points will rise or fall for individual courses will depend on the supply and demand for places across individual courses and the grades achieved by college applicants.

Overall, health courses are the single most popular area (71,652 applications) followed by business and administration courses (69,729), arts (51,624), social and behavioural sciences (36,777), and engineering and engineering trades (30,213) for level eight or honours degree courses.

Some of the biggest year-on-year growth in application numbers were in physiotherapy (+22 per cent), dentistry, which includes dental nursing and hygiene (+10 per cent), pharmacy, which includes pharmacy technician (+9 per cent) and primary education (+8 per cent).

The largest year-on-year decreases were in transport services (-38 per cent), hygiene and occupational health services (-16 per cent) and agriculture (-12 per cent).

Languages, personal services and secondary education courses were all down 10 per cent compared to last year.

Applications from the North (-9 per cent) have continued to fall, while applications are also down from outside the EU (-2 per cent).

British applications to the CAO are up 6 per cent while there is no change in those from EU countries.

The number of applications for level 7 or 6 courses is down six per cent compared to last year. The data shows there were 39,971 applications for such courses this year, down from 42,676 in 2023.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times