CAO points increase in line with economic recovery

Stem subjects, plus construction, law and business increase as expected

Sophie Reid after getting her Leaving Cert results at Kilkenny College last week. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

Sophie Reid after getting her Leaving Cert results at Kilkenny College last week. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan


Nervous Leaving Cert students have been able to access their college offers since early this morning. A total of 52,028 students will receive round one CAO offers today.

Points for courses tied to the economy – such as science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, plus construction, law and business – increased in line with expectations. Those courses are in demand for career-focused students with an eye on the country’s economic growth. Some courses slated to rise – architecture, for example – stayed the same.


Science, engineering and technology

Demand for science courses exploded over the past few years, and points rose accordingly. Science programmes remained a popular choice for career-minded students this year.

But points for the most popular science course in the country, science in UCD, which has 400 places, cooled slightly this year with a decrease of five points to 510. The course increased 10 points to 515 last year.

According to UCD, the course continues to attract high-calibre students, who reflect the widespread popularity of science for career prospects or “as a valuable undergraduate degree in its own right”.

Science at Trinity College reflects the same cooling trend, decreasing by five points to 510. The course had jumped by five points last year to 515.

Most science courses increased, however, with science at DIT jumping 25 points to 460.

At DCU, science subjects remained popular across the board, with common entry to science up 10 points to 470, and analytical science up 20 points to 460.

DCU’s president, Prof Brian MacCraith, said: “I am delighted to see continued growth in popularity for DCU programmes again this year. Given our commitment to excellence in the Stem disciplines and their importance for national economic prosperity, I am particularly pleased to see increased demand across computing, engineering and science programmes at DCU.”

Biological and chemical sciences at UCC was up 25 points to 470. Its physics and astrophysics programme went down five points to 505.

According to a spokeswoman for University of Limerick, 23 of the 29 programmes in the faculty of science and engineering registered points increases. The degree in industrial biochemistry was up 60 points to 435, and applied physics clocked an increase of 40 points to 395.

Aeronautical engineering at UL was up 70 points to 460. That was the largest jump, but other engineering courses also went up.

Engineering at Trinity College went up 25 points to 495, at UCD it increased 15 points to 510 and at NUIG it was up 50 points to 450.



Arts in UCD is still the largest course in the country, with an intake of more than 1,200 places, while the intake is also large at NUIG, NUIM and UCC.

Arts was not as much in demand during the recession, and the course dropped 15 points to 340 in 2013. The programme held steady at 340 in 2014 but fell five points this year, to 335.

“With the increased demand for business and professional degrees, the demand for arts degrees continues to be under pressure, so the five points fall to 335 is not unexpected,” said a UCD spokeswoman.

At NUI Maynooth, arts held steady at 350 points. Prof Aidan Mulkeen, deputy president of NUI Galway, said he expects arts points to rise as the university phases in a curriculum that will allow students to customise their own programmes.

“We have seen continued strong demand for our arts degree, which attracted over 1,200 first preferences. The flexible structure of this degree is proving a very attractive feature, as it allows students to choose a wide range of subject combinations from literature, humanities, social sciences, business and law.”

Arts at UCC was up 5 points to 350, and there are 24 fewer places available on the course this year. At UL, the course went down five points to 425. At NUIM, points held steady at 350, and the same was the case at NUIG and WIT, at 300 and 280 points, respectively.



Points for business courses fell sharply during the recession, but today’s CAO numbers reflect a steady increase since 2013. A spokeswoman for DCU said points for many degree courses have continued to rise, particularly in career-focused business and Stem programmes.

“Entry points for a wide range of programmes in DCU Business School have increased, including the highly popular marketing, innovation and technology; and aviation management programmes, both of which have increased by 20 and 25 points respectively to 470 and 455,” she said.

At GMIT, the honours degree in business in accountancy rose 35 points. GMIT said this reflects an overall increase in demand for business.

Business studies, UL’s largest business programme, was up 15 points to 420, and business studies with Japanese rose 25 points to 445.

UCD’s popular commerce rose 10 points to 500 and by the same amount at NUIG, to 390. The course rose 20 points at UCC, to 455 points.



There was a significant increase in points for language courses last year, reflecting the demand for employees with both European and emerging market language skills in multinational companies. There was not such a clear trend this year.

International business with German at DIT stayed the same at 405 points, and international languages at UCD went down 15 points to 460.

Business studies with Japanese at UL rose 25 points to 445, and arts international at UCC went up 20 points to 475.


Agriculture and food science

One of the most unexpected shifts this year was the decrease in first preference demand for agriculture science places at honours degree level, which had been up for a few years because of growth in the food export industry.

Despite the decrease in applicants, agricultural science in UCD was up 5 points to 470, and animal science was up 20 points to 445.

Food science at UCC was up 15 to 460, while food innovation at DIT rose 45 points to 410 and food science and health at UL increased 35 points to 450.


Medicine and health sciences

Points in medicine fell across the board last year, after a controversy surrounding the HPat medical suitability test and its subsequent restructuring.

There were some marginal increases this year, with UCC up two points to 726, UCD up three points to 736, NUIG up two points to 723 and RCSI up two points to 729. These points reflect a combination of Leaving Cert and HPat scores, with Leaving Cert scores over 550 not counted towards the overall score.


Architecture and construction

Huge jumps were predicted in construction and architecture courses because of the economic recovery, following marked increases last year. Construction has become a political issue, with the related housing and homelessness crises making headlines.

While points for construction courses were up in general, the increase was perhaps not as drastic as expected.

At UL, construction management and engineering was up 40 points to 350, and civil engineering was up 25 points to 475.

Quantity surveying and construction economics at DIT was up 10 points to 330; construction management at the same college was up 15 points to 315; and project and construction management at NUIG stayed the same at 360.

Architecture at UCD remained at 490, and DIT remained at a hefty 590 points, having jumped significantly last year. Points were up by 20 at UCC, to 440.



Like construction and architecture, law courses are tied in with the property market. The recovery means more conveyancing work for lawyers, which the floor dropped out of during the recession.

Accordingly, points for law rose in 2013 and 2014, and they continued to rise this year.

DCU’s two law degrees have seen a significant increase in popularity. Points for both economics, politics and law; and law and society were up by 20 points.

Law was up 10 points to 540 at Trinity College, 10 points to 520 at UCD and 10 points to 490 at UCC.

At UL, law and accounting was up 20 points to 435, and at Athlone IT business and law was up 30 points to 300.


Journalism and digital media

Points for digital and new media courses are on the rise, reflecting the changing nature of the industry and the continuing shift away from traditional print journalism.

Multimedia at DCU increased 30 points to 445. DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said the increase “echoes current industry demand and indicates that students are making choices with career ambitions in mind”.

At UL, journalism and new media was up 50 points to 415. Creative writing for digital media at Tralee IT was in demand, with an increase of 40 points to 335. At GMIT, points for the honours degree in film and documentary increased by 30 points to 350.

But traditional journalism courses proved less popular, with journalism at DCU down five points to 435. At DIT the course was down 15 points to 380.



There were a few small increases in primary teaching points. At Mary Immaculate Limerick, the course was up five points to 470. There was also an increase of 5 at the Marino Institute of Education, to 465 points. At NUI Maynooth, points decreased by 10 to 500.

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