51 per cent hike in demand for technology courses

One in five students now choosing technology as first preference

There has been a 51 per cent increase in applications to technology courses at third level over the last five years, a new study by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has found.

Significant increases in first preference applications to science and engineering courses were also recorded.

A detailed analysis of CAO preferences carried out by the HEA revealed that applications to technology courses constituted more than 20 per cent of all first preference applications this year.

Applications to programmes in engineering and science constituted 4.6 per cent and 7.5 per cent of overall first preference applications, both increases from 2012.


Applications to courses in computing stabilised at 6.6 per cent. At 1.7 per cent of overall first preferences, the demand for courses in construction continued to slide but there are signs the decline may be starting to stabilise, the authors of the report concluded. Construction first preference applications have declined by 55 per cent since 2008.

Commenting on the report the Chairman of the HEA, John Hennessy, welcomed the increase in applications and encouraged those currently in second level as well as their families and guidance counsellors to seriously examine long term careers in science and technology areas.

"Science and technology are providing and will provide major opportunities for Ireland, " he said. "We need to ensure that we continue to grow the number of world class graduates who not alone can work for tech and science based companies but who will also set up companies of their own as well as contribute to the wider society."

Mr Hennessy challenged guidance counsellors to "actively encourage good students” to pursue programmes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and said it was essential that schools, higher education institutions and industry interact to make students aware of emerging opportunities.

The news comes on foot of reports of record demand for higher level maths at Junior Cert level. Figures released by the State Examinations Commission this week have shown that two thirds of Junior Cert candidates are planning to take maths at higher level in the exam this year.

One in two Junior Cert students elected to take the higher paper last year, also a significant rise on previous years.

The move to higher maths in the Junior Cycle follows a considerable increase in demand at Leaving Cert level since the introduction of bonus CAO points for the subject.

The developments suggest students and parents are being influenced by the efforts of industry and government to encourage greater participation in science, maths and technology at all levels.

Louise Holden

Louise Holden

Louise Holden is a contributor to The Irish Times focusing on education