Student demand for business courses rises

Big drop in CAO applications for healthcare and primary school teaching courses

CAO head offices in Galway

CAO head offices in Galway


There has been a fall in student demand for third-level places in pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary and primary school teaching in the 2013 first preferences submitted to the CAO.

Demand for commerce and business has risen, with first preferences up by 6.5 per cent and there has been a 10 per cent rise in student demand for agriculture/food courses.

Overall, however, analysis of the 17 course groupings classified by the CAO show only marginal changes in the pattern of applications for honours degree courses this year compared to 2012.

This should mean points requirements will vary only slightly for most of the CAO offers to be issued on August 19th.

The total number of applicants to the CAO was 76,120 this year, down slightly from 76,307 in 2012. The number of students seeking honours degree courses at 67,249 is up by only 77 on last year, a factor which has helped to moderate points rises and falls. The numbers of students seeking places on ordinary degree/higher certificate courses are down from 49,593 to 48,680.

The universities, institutes and colleges assess student first preferences as an important indicator of uptake. Although a student might not reach the points needed for their first preference, their choice can help a college to plan the number of places it can offer in a given degree programme.

One of the biggest percentage changes year-on-year is the sharp 17 per cent drop in first-choice applications for pharmacy, which fell from 470 in 2012 to 391. The steepest rise was demand for places on agriculture/food courses at 10 per cent.

Applications for primary school teaching courses also took a hit with numbers down by 387, or 7.5 per cent, to 4,735. A key factor is the reported inability of trained teachers to gain a full-time position afterwards .


The large numbers seeking places on the mainstream arts and science courses have shown only marginal changes in application patterns since 2012. Arts attracts the single largest number of applicants at about 17,000.

First-preferences for science reached about 9,500 this year, but the year-on-year change is negligible. Science has seen a steady rise in demand over the past few years.

First preferences for engineering/technology courses for 2013 rose by 3.5 per cent on 2012.

Commerce/finance has had a 6.5 per cent increase in first preferences year-on-year. There are about 11,000 applicants in this area for 2013.

Pharmacy was not the only healthcare subject to register a fall in interest. Dentistry is down by 7 per cent, veterinary by 6 per cent, physiotherapy by 4 per cent and nursing by 2 per cent. Applications for medicine at 3,115 are marginally up by 1 per cent.

Law attracted fewer students this year with demand down by 2.5 per cent. Not unexpectedly, courses related to construction and the built environment are down, with only 195 students expressing a first preference in this category.