A total of 73,923 applications were received by the CAO by the closing date of February 1 this year, showing a very slight decrease of 61 from last year.
The number of Leaving Certificate students has increased, but the total number of applicants has been offset by a decrease in applications from mature students and those completing Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses. The figures presented by the CAO show an increasing move towards career specific courses, with more general courses, and those relating to more precarious industries seeing a decline.
The data published by CAO is subject to change however as the body will continue to accept late applications up until May 1, and students will soon be able to make use of the “change of mind” facility, which will open on May 5.
Business and Administration Courses, as well as Arts and Humanities, remain the most popular for applicants, but both saw a decline in popularity, as the number of first preferences given to Arts courses fell by 5% from 2019.
There was a significant increase of 10% in applications for Secondary Teaching courses, as well as for Physical Sciences. Courses relating to Environment, Law, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Architecture and Construction each saw an increase of 8%.
Much of the increased interest in certain courses can be linked to future job opportunities. A number of studies by the Teacher’s Union of Ireland have found significant shortages in the number of secondary school teachers. A survey in January of over 130 schools found that 77% had advertised positions in the previous six months with no response. Another survey in 2019 found that more than half of secondary schools in the country were struggling with unfilled teacher vacancies, particularly in subjects such as maths, Irish, and modern languages.
Anxiety around job opportunities may be linked to the 14% drop in applications to journalism courses, as the past year has seen further decline in the sector. Significant cutbacks were made in 2019 at Independent News and Media and DMG Ireland, and the cutting of the print edition of the Times Ireland edition led to the loss of over 20 jobs.
Other significant decreases were recorded in courses relating to manufacturing and processing (-10%), and personal services (-8%).
There was an increase in applications to courses relating to environment and sustainability, while agriculture courses saw a decline of 5%
The small pool of applicants from the UK saw a decrease of 5%, with the number applying from Northern Ireland increasing slightly. The number of applicants from the EU remained roughly the same.