Record number of students apply for agri courses


STUDENTS ARE deserting courses linked to the property sector in their droves, but record numbers are applying for degree programmes in the booming agriculture sector.

New Central Applications Office figures show demand for higher-level degree programmes in construction, civil engineering, architecture and law has slumped.

Overall, the number applying for courses linked to construction and the built environment has almost halved in the last two years.

Only 185 students across the State selected a course in this area as their first choice. Overall, applications for the construction sector are down by 28 per cent this year – after a 20 per cent drop in 2010.

Demand for places on courses in architecture, once among the most coveted for students, has also fallen back dramatically. Applications this year are down 11 per cent, after a 10 per cent decline in 2010. Demand for courses in law is down by 6 per cent amid concerns about the fall-off in conveyancing work.

The most striking feature of this year’s figure – based on student applications to the CAO in January – is the 28 per cent increase in applications for courses in agriculture. The figures reflect increasing confidence among students and their parents about job prospects in the sector.

By contrast, demand for courses in dentistry is down by 14 per cent; this follows negative publicity about the sector where dentists have been highlighting cuts in State supports and in income levels.

In science and technology, Government and business leaders will welcome the 6 per cent growth in demand for science courses. But there will be some disappointment at the marginal (0.35 per cent) increase in demand for engineering and technology courses.

Teachers and business leaders have been working to inform students about the strong employment potential in engineering and technology but this message is still only having a limited impact.

In all, only 5,400 students selected a higher-level degree in engineering and technology as their first preference; about the same number that made primary teaching their first choice.

Overall, the CAO figures show a decline of almost one per cent in the total number of college applications; these reached a record level of almost 72,000 last year.

Among the colleges, the percentage of first-preference applications to NUI Maynooth has grown by 9 per cent.

Applications to the Froebel College of Education have increased by more than 50 per cent since the college announced its move to NUI Maynooth.

At UCD, first preferences for computer science almost doubled but demand for places on first- year Arts – the largest undergraduate course in the State – declined by 11 per cent.