Surge in demand for science courses


CAO points for science and technology courses are likely to jump again after application figures for college places this autumn showed another surge in demand for these courses.

Despite an overall drop in the number of college applicants, demand for science degree programmes has risen by almost 4 per cent, against a backdrop of falling applications in most other subjects. The figures breaking down this year’s college entry applications are published today by the CAO. They suggest that applicants are continuing to make choices based on the economic situation.

Their first preference selections appear to reflect greater confidence in the recruitment market for science graduates than for traditional careers like law and the public sector.

Demand for arts, law and construction-related programmes have dropped again this year.

Applications for courses in teaching and health saw significant falls, possibly influenced by pressure on public sector employment, recruitment embargoes and wage cuts.

Last year, entry qualifications to science courses broke the 500 points mark for the first time.

Upward pressure

Upward pressure from this year’s rise in demand could push the points requirement for science even higher when CAO points thresholds are published in August.

This is the sixth year of increases in the points needed for science-related degree courses. The points have jumped by more than 200 since 2007 in some universities.

Only three subjects have seen significant increases in demand this year – business and science both rose by about 4 per cent, but agriculture saw the biggest jump, with a rise in applications of 6.69 per cent.

Applications for primary teaching have dropped by 8 per cent this year. New entrants to the teaching profession have been subject to higher than average wage cuts and they have found considerable difficulty gaining full-time employment.

However, NUI Maynooth bucked the trend with a 76 per cent increase in applications for the Froebel BEd primary education degree which moves to the main university campus this year.

There has been an overall drop in applications for medical and paramedical disciplines. Pharmacy, dentistry and veterinary medicine have all shown a dip in demand.

Applications to the general medical degree have dropped by 6.4 per cent. The length of study and cost of medical degrees may be a factor.

Decreasing employment opportunities in the public sector may also be impacting on students’ choices when it comes to health disciplines.

Business courses

After a number of years in decline, business courses appear to have stabilised this year, rising by over 4 per cent. This development may signal a growing confidence in the Irish business environment.

However, there was no evidence of confidence in any allied growth in the construction sector. Programmes in the built environment dropped again, by 10 per cent. Only 133 people in the country selected degrees in construction as their first preference. Arts students, who traditionally make up the biggest cohort of degree students in the country, may see a fall in points this year as demands for arts degrees has slipped by 4.45 per cent.

The biggest overall fall in demand was for degree courses in architecture, which has plummeted by over 12 per cent this year.The general drop in applications is largely a result of falling mature enrolments.