CAO breakdown: Points reach record highs

Top grades for Leaving Cert class of 2021 leads to record CAO points in Round One

The class of 2021 has secured record high grades, but this has, in turn, led to record CAO points. This all means that thousands of students will be disappointed to nonetheless lose out on a college offer. For others, the high CAO points mean that they may miss out on one of their first three choices.

Last year also saw significant points rises but, back then, the points did not rise for all courses or, for some courses, rose less than expected.

One of the cruellest aspects of the CAO system is that students can work exceptionally hard to secure a place on a medicine course, get the points needed and yet still lose out on random selection. Given the high number of students who secured close to or over 600 points this year, this means that many medicine applicants who met all the criteria will be disappointed.

Overall, there appears to be a clear disjoint between projected employer demand for graduates in areas such as science, engineering and computer science and the number of places underfunded universities are able to offer. For some institutes of technology and technological universities, however, some points have dipped slightly or stayed the same.


Here, we take a look at how the round one points for some level eight courses in 2021 compare with those required last year.

Medicine and health sciences

The only consolation here is that the points for health sciences have not gone up by as much as some other courses.

At UCC, points for medicine have risen from 731 to 738; at RCSI they're up from 733 to 741; at Trinity from 735 to 743; at UCD from 737 to 743; and at NUI Galway from 728 to 737.

Points for general nursing courses are up too: at Athlone IT, from 442 to 451; at DCU, from 454 to 456; at both Trinity and UCD, from 429 to 462; at GMIT, from 429 to 440; at NUI Galway from 476 to 502 and at UL from 475 to 498.

Pharmacy points have increased at Trinity, from 590 to 613, at RCSI from 579 to 613 and at UCC from 590 to 613.

At UCD, physiotherapy is up from 578 to 601 points. Points at RCSI are up from 566 to 589, at Trinity from 566 to 590; and at UL from 589 to 613.

Finally, dentistry has also hit record high points: up from 613 to 625 at both UCC and Trinity.


Points for commerce at UCD rose from 498 to 521 last year, and this year applicants need 555 points for commerce or commerce international.

Business, economics and social studies at Trinity also rose for the second year in a row, up from 543 to 577.

Business studies at Dublin Business School are up from 218 to 243, at DCU from to 488 to 511 and at UL from 431 to 451.

Engineering and computer science

CAO points for engineering have been on a steady upward curve in recent years; this year's curve is steep. At UCD, points are up from 520 to 565 and, at UL, from 476 to 498. At Munster Technological University (formerly Cork IT and IT Tralee), points for common entry engineering are up from 411 to 475. WIT's engineering (options) course bucks the trend, falling from 288 to 270 points.

Computer science at UCC is up to 503 (from 468), at UCD to 544 (from 510), at DCU to 475 (from 400), at TU Dublin to 499 (from 476) and at Trinity College to 566 (from 509) and at Maynooth University's computer science arts is up to 381 (from 352) and through science to 400 (from 351).


Points for general entry science courses have shot up, too. At UCD, science applicants who needed 533 points last year now require 577. Maynooth’s science course is up from 360 to 401, at NUI Galway from 433 to 489.

At Letterkenny IT general entry science courses have dipped from 303 to 302 points and at WIT from 308 to 279.

More specialised science courses see entry points rise. Biological and chemical sciences at UCC is up to 555 from 510 last year while genetics and cell biology at DCU is up from 512 to 543.

Arts, social science and journalism

One of the big stories this year is how some arts and humanities courses, which have seen a decade-long points fall mirrored by the points rise for science and engineering, are back to the type of points last seen before the financial crisis.

At UCD, points for arts shoot up from 310 to 381, while the four-year humanities course rises from 340 to 397 points.

NUI’s arts course rises from 301 points to 327 this year, while the university’s NUI Galway’s suite of arts courses (including arts with human rights, arts with journalism and arts with maths and education) also see significant points rises.

Social science at UCD is up from 421 to 475 and at Maynooth from 346 to 390.

Journalism points rise, perhaps reflecting the increases in subscription to newspapers through the pandemic: up from 429 to 452 at DCU, from 322 to 367 at TU Dublin and UL from 402 to 432.


Slightly lower points rises, in some instances, than other disciplines. Points for Law and Society at DCU have risen from 466 to 469. Law at Griffith has gone from to 244 to 245, at TU Dublin from 451 to 463, at Trinity from 566 to 590 and at UCD from 546 to 576.


Primary teaching at Marino rises from 484 to 508, at DCU from 488 to 518 and at Mary Immaculate from 495 to 522.


Points for UCC’s more diary-focused course have gone from 496 to 506 while UCD’s long-standing agriculture course sees points fall slightly, from 456 to 454.

Architecture and construction

UCC and CIT’s jointly-offered architecture course rises to 543 points from 484 last year. At TU Dublin, points rise from 622 to 644, while UCD’s course is up from 510 to 555.