Thousands of school-leavers who hope to study architecture, engineering, construction and business face sharp points increases following a surge in applications for courses linked to the economic recovery.
Overall, a record number of Central Applications Office (CAO) applicants – some 80,877 – are seeking college places this year.
The growth areas reflect sectors of the economy that are recovering as students flock to courses where most jobs growth is forecast.
Points for engineering have risen across the board. One of the highest points rises for any course is at UCC, where general entry engineering leaped by 75 points to 490.
Most science courses are also up, while entry requirements for most of the major business or commerce courses have risen or are unchanged. Nursing, too, sees points increases across seven of the thirteen courses on offer.
By contrast, points have fallen to a new low for many arts courses as students question the value of these degrees.
UCD's arts programme – the largest in the country – has fallen to 320 points, while applicants can secure an equivalent course with 300 points in NUI Galway, 330 in Maynooth University, 355 in UCC and 385 in DCU.
Despite the decrease in applications, arts remains by far the most popular area of study, with 16,000 college applicants listing it as their first choice.
Some of the sharpest drops in point reductions are in courses linked to agriculture, with courses at UCD, IT Tralee and Dundalk falling by between 10 and 25 points. Applicants flocked to agriculture during the downturn may be drifting back to other programmes such as construction.
Points have also fallen slightly for medicine, while most law courses have remained broadly similar or risen slightly.
The number of degree courses requiring 500 points or more has jumped to a record high in this year’s CAO listings.
This is despite pledges by universities to help dampen the points race by broaden entry routes into college courses.
More than 10 per cent of honours degree courses listed by universities and institutes of technology are taking in fewer than 10 students.
In all, the CAO has today issued offers to more than 52,000 applicants.
Applicants are being advised to check to see if they have received an offer by going online (cao.ie) from 6am.