Winners and losers in points race . . .

Requirements for many courses have risen while others remain in the doldrums

Many students hoping for a place on business or science courses in university will be disappointed this morning as the points requirements for these subjects have jumped again. CAO hikes are the order of the day across a range of subjects, with UCD reporting points rises in 60 per cent of its Level 8 offerings this year.

The new bonus-point system for higher maths has flooded the entry gates with extra points – 314,288 in total – which has had the effect of driving up requirements across a range of subjects including computer science, food science, agriculture, sports science, law and journalism.

Despite the points bonanza, some subjects are still in the doldrums. Teaching and nursing have both slipped this year in a number of institutions. Arts courses have also shed points, with the biggest course in the country, arts at UCD, down by 10 points to 340 this year. Apart from medicine, health sector disciplines have slumped, with drops in nursing, dentistry, clinical therapy and optometry.

Architecture is still in freefall; students are not yet showing confidence in the Irish construction sector.
Science, engineering and technology
The rise of science kicked in with the fall of the economy as students and their families starting looking seriously at the career prospects of graduates. Last year science programmes in UCD and TCD topped 500 points for the first time. This year sees a continuation of the trend, bolstered by bonus points for maths. Science in UCD is up 5 points to 505 while Trinity science is holding steady at 510. At UL the subject has crept up five points to 365 while science at NUI Galway has shot up by 25 points to 405. Science at DCU is up 15 points to 450.


Engineering has also seen a boost across many institutions and computer-related courses have generated a lot of interest again this year, with a huge 90-point surge for the subject at UCC, to 430.

Business is up for the second year after a bit of a dip, so students hoping for a soft entry into commerce and business courses may get a land today. Commerce in UCD is up 10 to 475; up 35 in NUIG to 375; up 35 in UL to 410 and up 15 to 440 in DCU.

Soundings from the business community about the importance of international languages have obviously hit home: business courses with languages are a big hit this year. Commerce with German at UCC jumped 55 points to 460 while NUI Galway’s commerce and language pairings all rose by 30 points or more.

Agriculture and food science
Agricultural and food science continues to push up, with points rises in both universities offering the subject. Agriculture has won the confidence of students from within and beyond the farming community since the recession, as it is regarded as a steady sector with potential to grow. There was a 10 per cent increase in applications to agriculture this year. In UCD the common entry Agricultural Science degree is up 10 points to 455, while its Food Science programme is up 15 to 470. Food Science at UCC is up by 35 points to 440. In DIT, Food Innovation is up by 50 points to 330. In UL, Food Science and Health is up 25 to 375.

The arts degree has taken a bit of a hammering in recent years. By pushing the subject down the CAO form, many students have indicated a lack of confidence in the market value of an arts degree. At its peak, arts in one of the bigger universities was well over 400 points: this year the biggest course in the country, arts in UCD, fell to a new low of 340, a 15-point drop on last year.

It's been a mixed year for the construction disciplines. Many construction-related courses have bottomed out over the course of the recession with students writing off the sector in job terms. However, this year has seen a rise of 10 points in Structural Engineering with Architecture in UCD, to 435. Civil Engineering is up 30 in NUI Maynooth, to 460, and up 10 in UL, to 425.

However, the main architecture programme at UCD has dropped another 15 points this year, to 465. At Dublin Institute of Technology, architecture has dropped by 25 points to 520. Architectural Technology at IT Carlow and Cork IT has dropped by 15 points. Architecture at UL has dropped by five points to 375. The subject is not out of the woods yet.

Teaching, nursing and paramedics
With the exception of medicine itself, all the frontline career disciplines have reduced points requirements this year. Students hoping to get into teaching will find it a little easier this year. Points for the two main teacher-training colleges of St Patrick's and Mary Immaculate are down. At 465 and 460 respectively, these are still high points courses but negative publicity around pay and conditions for teachers appear to have softened demand.

Other public-service career disciplines are also floundering this year, with nursing courses losing points on 11 of the 13 options available. Programmes in paramedical disciplines have also seen a decrease in demand this year.

After a couple of years of retraction law courses saw a marginal rise in points this year, although CAO figures do not indicate a rise in demand for the subject. The upward shift of five points at Trinity, UCC and UCD has been attributed to the bonus points swelling the system overall. In a notable local surge, UCC Law and Irish jumped 35 points this year.

Journalism and digital media
The points for journalism programmes showed a small increase this year, which represents the reversal of a recent downward slide in demand. The University of Limerick programme in Journalism and New Media has jumped up 30 points this year to 410.

The two traditional media colleges, DIT and DCU, have also seen increases in the points requirements for their journalism courses this year: DCU by 25 to 435 and DIT by five to 405. DIT’s Print and Digital Media Technology Management programme also rose this year, to 270. NUI Galway’s new Arts with Journalism course has weighed in at 480.

Digital Media Engineering at DCU has come up by 35 points to 385.

Medicine and health sciences
All the health sciences have come down this year with the exception of medicine, which is up by between one and four points in all five institutions offering the subject.

UCC saw the biggest jump, of four points. CAO figures show that there was no rise in applications for medicine this year, but again bonus points for maths have swollen the points requirement. It has also been suggested that improving results on the Hpat exam may also have contributed to the increase.

In other programmes related to careers in the health sector, however, there have been significant declines in points this year. Dentistry, physiotherapy, optometry and clinical speech and language are all down.

Louise Holden

Louise Holden

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