Date Uploaded: 18/08/2014
The points needed for 350 honours degrees — more than a third of the total on offer — have increased since last year.
Some of the biggest increases are in engineering, computing, physics, and chemistry degree courses, as nearly 51,000 people receive offers from the Central Applications Office today.
However, despite more students than last year receiving over 450 points, before adding 25 bonus points for 14,000 who passed higher-level Leaving Certificate maths, the rises are limited in nearly half those 350 courses to five or 10 points.
The cut-off points for entry to more than 300 of the 944 honours (level-8) degrees are less than last year, and 280 courses are either unchanged or new.
The CAO has offered a level-8 degree place to 39,398 people and, with some applicants getting two offers, a place on a level-7 or level-6 programme to 34,615 people.
The restriction on significant points increases may be due to colleges catering for rising demand after CAO had a record 78,000 applications. NUI Maynooth is offering places to 9% more students than last year, and almost even numbers of its degrees have higher and lower points than 2013.
More than half of degrees at University College Dublin, which has narrowed entry routes for school leavers to just 46, have higher points than last year.
Although one in three still have a 500-plus cut-off, slightly more require 450 points or under.
Other universities will also offer fewer programmes in future, with high numbers of places, aiming to reduce high-points courses that are largely fuelled by limits on places.
At University College Cork, entry points are up for 25 out of 66 degrees but fell for 20 others. One of the biggest jumps was a 35-point increase for Commerce (international) with Chinese to 405 points. It is harder than last year to get into more than half of Dublin Institute of Technology level courses (44 out of 77), but points are down or unchanged for 47 out of 71 Dublin City University degrees. Points for most university arts degrees are the same or less than a year ago, but arts at University College Cork has gone up 10 to 345 points.
Falling demand sees lower points for most nursing degrees, but they are higher for 40% of science degrees and unchanged for another one-third. The number of places to be filled by colleges looks likely to exceed the 46,129 students they accepted in 2013, the first year in a decade that first-year intakes fell. The number of people offered places so far this year is just under 59,000, as over 9,500 non-Leaving Certificate applicants were offered courses over the last month. Almost 7,750 mature students and 11,000 with further education qualifications have received offers.
The cut-off points for all CAO courses — with comparisons to 2013 points — are in the 16-page Choices for College supplement inside today’s Irish Examiner.
Despite what may seem moderate points increases compared with other years — and for just over a third of all degrees, it can be said — the pressure for college places has still not abated.
Just ask any of the 45,728 students who sat the Leaving Certificate in June and who were waiting for a CAO offer this morning.
Students hoping to get into any one of more than 80 out of 944 honours (level 8) degrees needed at least 500 points — a score for which an average 75% to 80% mark (for a B2 grade) is needed in six Leaving Certificate exams, with room for maybe one next-best grade to scrape past that threshold.
This assumes all those exams were at higher level and that one of those subjects was honours maths, with its lucrative 25 bonus points; otherwise the student would need four higher level B1s (80% to 85%) and a minimum two B2s.
These may be the requirements for fewer than one in 10 third-level programmes — most of which undoubtedly will have rigorous standards in the three of four years of their duration — but the stresses for many teenagers of trying to achieve such standards were highlighted only last week by an Economic and Social Research Institute study on the experiences of 750 students in the transition from school to college and work.
The Irish Universities Association, prompted by a conference three years ago of second-level and higher education bodies, is examining methods to help take the heat out of the decades-old points race.
However, while cautioning rightly that any reforms need to avoid causing more problems than solutions, no major changes will take effect until 2017 — by which time another 100,000 teenagers will have sat the Leaving Certificate under the existing system.
At the other end of the scale entirely, students can accept a place today on more than 200 degrees with no more than 300 CAO points — requiring no more than a combination, for example, of two higher level C3s and four B1s on ordinary level exams.
Most of these degrees are at institutes of technology, including nearly 90 at instiutes planning to apply to become technological universities. More than 50 level-8 degrees will admit entrants who have no more than 250 points.
At the request of the education authorities of the State (publicly funded colleges being largely autonomous in matters such as how many students they register), many institutions have once again expanded places. This is despite limitations on their budgets from the public purse and many academic departments creaking from unfilled vacancies.
Hundreds of students beginning lectures next month will struggle to meet the academic demands of higher education — as college bosses who continue to enrol them have themselves attested in recent years. The evidence is also there in the growing dropout rates from recent Higher Education Authority figures.
However, while taxpayers continue to fund tuition and supports for students who do not progress to second year — largely through no fault of their own, if they have been poorly guided, financed, or academically supported — a cap remains on the numbers of places in further education programming.
For many years, while Government policy has been to increase numbers at third-level, the 33,000 places on post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses have been restricted by budget limitations.
Yet it is such courses which might well prepare for university those students who are not yet ready for a higher education to which so many are being admitted — some would say, all too readily.
Our admirable progression rates from school to third-level may look well on paper when politicians seek to attract inward investment and to laud their social equity values. However, the quality of education by colleges is at risk — and it is no longer just their own staff or students saying so — from inability to cater for such growth while funds and staffing have been shrinking.
The recently replaced education minister, Ruairí Quinn, kicked the crucial question of how to properly fund third-level education to touch, for his successor Jan O’Sullivan and other Labour colleagues, when he commissioned yet another report on the issue just a few months ago.
It is hard to argue with the Government requiring more from our universities and institutes of technology.
But simply expecting colleges to cram in more undergraduates is not the kind of efficiency that will benefit the students or the country in the long run.
Many of the points trends across various course categories are reflective of outline patterns of demand which emerged last month from CAO applicant statistics.
More than half of the 120-plus technology and engineering degrees command higher points than last year, with computing and software courses at institutes of technology among some of the biggest climbers.
However, while 25 engineering or technology courses went up at least 20 points, a dozen of those still require less than 350 out of the maximum 625 CAO points.
Also prominent in the highest points rises are civil and structural engineering degrees, particularly in the universities, but also at Cork Institute of Technology. Its structural engineering course has offered places only to applicants with 495 points or more — up 95 points year-on-year.
A sign of the increased demand for engineering — already signalled in final first-preference data last month from the CAO — was the 20-point rise for University College Dublin’s generic-entry engineering degree to 495 points.
Degrees with physics and chemistry appear to have experienced growing demand, as most need more points, perhaps buoyed by significant rises in the number of students taking the physical sciences as Leaving Certificate subjects this year.
In science and applied science, a third of 135 degrees with comparable first-round points for last year are unchanged, and entry standards for 60% of the rest are higher.
The cut-off for entry to arts degrees, which generally accept more students than any others at most universities, range from 300 to 350 points except at University of Limerick, where they fell 10 points to 430. They were unchanged at NUI Galway and UCD, but are up 10 to 345 at UCC and down 10 to 350 at NUI Maynooth.
Otherwise within the arts and social sciences — at close to 200 degrees, the biggest single category of level-8 courses — points have fallen for almost half of programmes but gone up for around one in three.
The business and administration category has the second-highest number of places on offer — as well as the second-highest applicant numbers. With the number of students choosing those degrees as their first preference rising since 2013, points for half of the around 180 courses have gone up, and they are unchanged for half of the remainder.
A renewed demand for teaching careers by high-performing students may be a factor in increases on some courses, notably a 15-point rise to 510 for entry to primary teaching at NUI Maynooth.
However, the programmes which admit the highest numbers of prospective primary teachers — St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and Mary Immaculate College in Limerick — show more modest changes. Both are only offering places to students with 465 CAO points or higher, although some applicants with that minimum score may lose out to random selection.
Nearly two thirds of all 35 teaching degrees — almost half being smaller second-level teacher training programmes — require points that are unchanged or within five of last year’s entry cut-off.
A drop in first-preference applications for medicine could be behind relatively big falls in points needed for all five undergraduate medicine courses, which have again selected entrants based on combined points from HPAT-test scores and Leaving Certificate results.
The cut-off points range from 721 at NUI Galway to 733 at Trinity College Dublin, with drops of 14 to 18 points at each of the medical schools, but students will still need to have been in the top ranks of school-leavers to have a strong chance at one of around 740 places for undergraduates.
The entry standard is down for nearly two thirds of 57 nursing degrees offering places. The fall follows a second successive year in which numbers listing nursing as their first preference at level-8 have fallen, down to 5,572 from a high of 6,000 two years ago.
Pharmacy points are all unchanged since 2013’s round-one offers, and physiotherapy requires between 540 and 555 points after going up 10 points at three colleges and falling by five at University of Limerick.
Four architecture degrees need between 10 and 70 points more than a year ago, and a dozen law programmes have a higher first-round entry requirement but slightly more have seen points fall.
The Central Applications Office has offered places to 50,848 people this morning.
For around half of them, there are two offers — one each from their choices of level 8 (honours) degrees and level 7 or 6 courses (ordinary degrees and higher certificates).
The 39,398 students who now have the chance to study for a level-8 degree include 19,974 people — nearly 51% — who will be studying the course which was at the top of their wishlist. Another 8,525 get their second or third preference course, meaning all but 22% of level-8 offers this morning were one of applicants’ first three choices.
Going on previous years’ patterns, the CAO should expect at least 28,000 of these level-8 offers to be snapped up by next Monday evening, August 25. In Round 2 on Thursday week, August 28, only around 1,400 offers are likely to be made but those receiving them may include around 600 with no offer to date.
The offers have been available to applicants to check online since 6am, but applicants should also have got a notification of their status by text and email this morning. A confirmation of each applicant’s position, whether or not they receive an offer, should also arrive by post today.
“It is extremely important that applicants notify CAO immediately if there are any errors or omissions in any of the correspondence that they receive from CAO,” said CAO general manager, Joe O’Grady. “They must make sure to do this well in advance of the next offer round to allow any corrections to be considered in subsequent offer rounds.”
More than 28,300 (or 81%) of the 34,615 people offered a level-7 or level-6 course today, got their first preference. The figure rises to 33,162, or 96%, when including people getting their first, second or third-choice course from the level 7/6 lists.
Between today’s Round 1 and some preliminary stage offers, CAO has now offered a third-level place to 58,865 people. Among them are 9,589 offered places in earlier rounds, including those who sought entry to courses with reserved places for mature applicants or further education graduates, although only 7,315 accepted these.
The number of mature applicants offered courses to date this year is 7,741 (out of 12,465 who applied) and nearly 11,000 out of 15,332 people who applied with a further education qualification have got an offer. Also offered places are just under half the 2,100 people applying with A-levels or other UK qualifications, and 1,667 with other school-leaving qualifications.
Some courses are making no offers this morning, for a range of reasons that include places having been filled in earlier rounds. They might, however, offer places in later rounds or invite fresh applications through the vacant places system that goes live on the CAO website from noon tomorrow.
That is just one of the options to keep in mind for some of the 19,112 CAO applicants not to receive any offer yet.
A live online Q&A & session will be hosted by the Irish Examiner and UCC websites for students with queries about points, college registration, and other issues from 10am to 11am and 3pm to 4pm today.
More than 20 students have been accepted into courses at Trinity College Dublin with as much as 150 points fewer than their future classmates in a pilot system using new selection criteria as well as Leaving Certificate results.
In a feasibility study being closely watched by other universities, the same weighting as their CAO points was given for written statements and essays from 270 students who applied through the new scheme, and also to how their exam grades ranked them in their own schools.
Some of the 10 successful applicants offered entry today to TCD’s history degree under the scheme had 335 points — 150 lower than the 485 cut-off for the 30 other entrants selected solely on exam results. For TCD’s law degree course, 10 applicants with between 465 and 530 points have been admitted using the pilot scheme, compared to the 535 or more CAO points of 80 other entrants.
A further five of 15 places were reserved under the scheme for entry to TCD’s degree in ancient and medieval history and culture.
“The Leaving Certificate recognises academic ability at a fixed point in time, but we wanted to see if we could measure potential and suitability for courses,” said Patrick Geoghegan, TCD’s outgoing dean of undergraduate studies and project sponsor.
“The best students are not necessarily the ones with the highest points, they are the ones with the academic ability and potential needed to thrive at third-level, self-reflective and independent thinkers who are the right fit for the right course.”
A team of independent evaluators scored students’ anonymous submissions, brief outlines of why they chose the course and short essays on any range of topics to demonstrate critical thinking skills.
The scores from this and their Leaving Certificate points were combined with data generated by CAO showing how they performed relative to others in their schools.
“Someone who receives 450 points in one school and is top of their class might have greater academic potential than someone in the bottom of their class with 460 points,” said Mr Geoghegan.
Journalist: Niall Murray