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College courses to hit highest CAO points levels for decades

Posted by Francis O' Toole on August 13, 2012

SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor

LEAVING CERT students face increased CAO points for many college courses this year – with some entry requirements hitting their highest levels for decades.

Ahead of the release of Leaving Cert results on Wednesday, career experts are predicting the points required for higher level eight science courses could break the 500-point barrier for the first time. Six years ago, students could gain a place in science at UCD with 300 points.

Points for a range of higher level eight courses in engineering, computing and agriculture are also set to increase.

Level eight qualifications cover higher diplomas and honours bachelor degrees.

An increase in points is also expected for many courses in arts and business, but this rise may be less dramatic. The CAO will publish its first offers next Monday.

Two factors are putting pressure on points this year. First, the new bonus points system – which gives 25 additional CAO points to those with a grade D3 or above in higher-level maths – will increase the overall points requirement.

Second, the intense competition among students for places on much-coveted science and technology courses will also push up the points needed for those courses.

In the forthcoming points race, the 10,000 or so students who secure a D3 grade in higher level maths will enjoy a significant advantage over the 36,000 who took the ordinary level paper in June. Students from previous years who have a pass in higher level maths will also gain the additional 25 points.

This year, 53,700 students sat the Leaving Cert – down 1,500 on last year, with over 40,000 of them seeking college places through the CAO. Normally this should lead to reduced pressure on points, but the new bonus points system has transformed the overall picture.

Career experts say the new bonus points system will have a scattergun effect, pushing up points across the board. There will be upward pressure on points even for many courses in arts and business where higher level maths is not a requirement.

The most dramatic increase is expected in science where there has been a 22 per cent increase in applications for college courses. This surge in popularity and the new bonus points scheme will drive points upward.

Points for nursing, teacher training and medicine could also increase as a result of the bonus points effect. The forecast from education sources for other main areas include:

* Arts: Applications are down six per cent, reflecting concerns about high levels of unemployment among graduates. Points would be expected to decline but the new bonus points for maths could boost points as many of the 17,000 applicants will have the additional 25 points. As a result, points could increase marginally.

* Business: The number of applicants for business courses is largely unchanged but with so many applicants gaining the bonus points for maths points seem unlikely to decline – despite the sluggish demand.

* Para-medical: All courses have seen an increase in applications. Demand for veterinary is up 16 per cent. Dentistry and pharmacy have registered an increase of 14 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in applications – a trend which will put up upward pressure on points.

* Construction and related: Points are set to decline. Only 211 applicants have listed courses in the built environment area as their first choice this year. Demand for architecture has also fallen back with 125 fewer first choice applicants this year.

Other factors are also combining to put upward pressure on points. These include the 20 per cent fall in the number of Irish students applying to colleges in Britain because of higher tuition charges. The increase in applications from those who are struggling to find jobs or apprenticeships is also driving points upwards.

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