Surge in science demand welcomed


A surge in demand for positions on third level science courses has been welcomed by the Science Foundation of Ireland.

Figures released by the Central Applications Office show an 18 per cent increase in applications across the board with the numbers seeking places on computer science courses at NUI Maynooth and UCD up 60 per cent and 44 per cent respectively

Over the past five years, science has recorded a 64 per cent increase in students listing it as a first preference, with courses in construction and the built environment falling by 70 per cent over the same period.

Science Foundation Ireland policy director Dr Graham Love described the level of interest in science subjects this year as unprecedented.

“Attitudes are changing in line with the enhancement of our scientific infrastructure, our talent pool and the increase in opportunities that now exist,” he said. “Ireland is seeing the value of scientific training as we become a high-tech nation. This is the path to recovery and a sustainable future.”

News of increased interest in the field of science, one of the areas the Government has pointed out as key to restoring economic growth, will be tempered by the continuing sluggish demand from students for courses in the other important areas like engineering and technology, which have increased only marginally.

Career experts say this reflects a fall-off in demand for engineering courses linked to the property sector; those linked to the high-tech sector registered much more impressive growth.

Some traditional college options, such as teaching and omnibus degrees in arts and social sciences, are increasingly out of favour. After years of growth, teaching applications are down 6 per cent, reflecting concerns about job prospects and reduced pay.

Applications for arts and social science, which have been on a downward spiral for several years, have again fallen back – this time by 3 per cent. This trend comes amid continuing concern about high unemployment among arts graduates.

By contrast, students are targeting areas where job prospects are strong. Applications for agriculture are up 9 per cent following a 28 per cent increase in applications last year.

Other features of today’s figures include: higher-level applications in business (down 1 per cent); nursing (up 3 per cent); veterinary medicine (up 15 per cent); law (up 1 per cent); art and design (down 10 per cent) and medicine (up 4 per cent).

Demand in construction, civil engineering and architecture has slumped. Only 148 students in the State selected courses linked to construction and the built environment as their first choice. Applications for the construction sector are down 68 per cent over the past three years.

Demand for once coveted places in architecture is also weakening, down 19 per cent in the past year.