CAO points to rise for popular courses


Leaving Cert students face a further increase in points this year for high-demand college courses in science, technology – and other areas seen as offering good job prospects.

Career experts also say the new bonus points system for maths – which pushed many courses to record points levels last year – could put further upward pressure on points this year.

Last year demand for science and related courses increased by almost 20 per cent, pushing points to record level. For the first time, points required for science at UCD crashed through the 500-point barrier; six years ago 300 points would have secured a place in this course.

Career experts say the stream of good news about job opportunities in science and technology will see points staying at very high levels and/or increasing in some key courses.There will also be some upward pressure on points in areas such as agriculture, food production, paramedicine and engineering, where there is strong demand for graduates.

Last year, concerns were raised that the new bonus points system for higher level Leaving Cert maths was distorting the CAO process. More than 11,000 students who gained grade D3 or higher secured the bonus points.

Last night one guidance counsellor said: “If this result encourages more students to attempt higher level maths in June it will put more upward pressure on points – especially for in-demand courses.”

Bonus points

There are indications from schools, he said, that many students believe they can no longer compete on equal terms in the points race without the bonus points. One of the striking features last year was how points increased even in areas where student demand was weakening.

This year, the expectation at this stage is that the overall increase in points will be nothing like as dramatic as in 2012 – but points will remain at record levels for high-demand courses.

On average, points for higher-level computer courses last year were up by 40 points across the CAO system.

Other factors putting pressure on points this year include:

The expected increase in applications from those who are struggling to find jobs or apprenticeships;

The virtual collapse of construction activity, which is forcing many students to seek alternatives in science, engineering and related courses.

Competition for college places from mature students and those who deferred.

Of the 56,000 students who will sit the Leaving Cert, about 42,000 will seek a college place through the CAO. Points for arts and business are expected to be broadly unchanged.