The Central Applications Office (CAO) has today released 2018 application data up to the Change of Mind Course Choices closing date of 1st July. Latest CAO figures show what sectors applicants chose for their first preference. A total of 77,171 have applied to CAO this year. Over 4,500 additional applications have been made since the 1st February applications deadline. Overall this year’s applications are down by 4.2% on last years’ numbers.
The upturn in the economy with more job vacancies and greater availability and uptake of apprenticeships may account for some of the decrease in college applications this year. Mature students may also have been drawn to the increased opportunities available through Springboard+.
The initial data released by CAO in March gave some valuable insights into the trends for 2018. So has the Change of Mind facility shed anymore light on the popularity of courses?
In March the following courses were showing positive signs of attracting more applicants. How did they fare after CAO Change of Mind?
- Education: The figures released in March showed an increase in applications in education courses. February figures were up by 4% on 2017. This growing interest was sustained in the latest figures which show education courses are up again by 7% on 2017. Figures show an 8% increase in first preference for primary school teaching, no change on the March data, but applications to secondary teaching courses have increased again and are now up by 7% on 2017. This is great news for the education sector which is experiencing a chronic short supply of secondary teachers.
- Biological and Related Sciences: This has been a sector of continuous growth in recent years with many biopharma companies choosing to locate to Ireland. Projected levels of employment in biopharma are very promising and it is anticipated that employment in the biopharma industry will reach 33,200 in 2020. First preference choices for Biological and Related Sciences was reported to have increased by 10% this year in the March figures but it has continued to grow and in the latest figures shows an increase of 14%.
- Engineering: We heralded the good news on the engineering front in March with an increase of 6% in first preference choices. This increase has dropped in the most up to date data to 4%. Engineering applications were down last year which resulted in a significant drop in points for many engineering courses. Fortunately, the interest in engineering has been restored this year. There is an acute shortage of engineering professionals in Ireland and the sector is enjoying a period of growth.
- Agriculture: First choice preferences in agriculture were up by 6% in March. Like Engineering the Agri sector has gone down in first choice level 8 applications but it is still up by 2% on 2017.
What courses are losing applications?
- Arts: The applications to Arts programmes are always very popular and eclipsed only by the health and business sectors. This years’ dramatic 13% decrease (unchanged from data released in March) in first preference choices for Arts is very unusual. A possible explanation may be a result of the change UCD made to their new Social Science programme which seems to be attracting a lot of new interest this year. UCD have traditionally attracted the greatest number of applicants to their Arts programme. The Social and Behavioural Sciences courses increased by 6% thereby adding credence to this theory.
- Information and Communication Technologies: There is a chronic skills shortage in IT and this years’ CAO applicants are not helping the situation. There appears to be a downward spiralling interest in this area. Last year’s figures were down by 5% and the 2018 figures are down by a further 11% (This is slightly better than what the figures suggested in March -16%). With so many tech companies locating to Ireland, it is disappointing that young people aren’t more attracted to this sector.
- Journalism and Information: As forecast in March the figures are down for this year -27%, but not as dramatically as the information in March led us to believe (-36%). The precarious nature of this job and the rapid change this sector is undergoing may explain the drop-off in interest here.
- Languages: Down by 9% on 2017. This wasn’t at all apparent in March where the difference was only -1% on 2017.
What does it all mean?
Demand is generally a good indicator of whether or not points will increase or fall. Where there is significant growth in applications for particular courses there is greater competition for each available course place, which will in turn translate into higher CAO points.
Where applications for a course drop or remain similar, CAO points will generally remain steady or may even fall.
A total of 77,171 applications were received by CAO by the 1st July closing date, a decrease of 3,397 applicants on the previous year.
Overall 2018 CAO data shows:
- A decrease in Level 8 applications (down by 2,074 from 71,595 in 2017 to 69,521 in 2018)
- A decrease in Level 6/7 applications (Down 3,650 from 45,393 in 2017 to 41,743 in 2018).
Mature Applicant Numbers are down
There was a total of 8,539 applications from mature applicants (over 23 years of age) – down 1,168 on 2017.
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