CAO applications soar

An unprecedented numbers of students have applied for college places this year. The Central Applications Office estimates a 10 per cent increase from last year’s 66,500 to 72,500, for 2010. Unfortunately, this sudden increase will most likely lead to a dramatic increase in CAO points for most courses. The record number of applications will impose further pressure on facilities and resources at higher-level institutions.
A spokesman for the Minister of Education Batt O’Keeffe said that over 71,000 students have applied for 45,000 places. He said the gap between supply and demand would narrow in the months ahead because some applicants will not get the required points. Others will decide to repeat, defer, apply for places in Northern Ireland or the UK, or enter post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) or apprenticeship programmes.
Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes said the cap on PLC places needed to be lifted. Mr Hayes said official figures show there were almost 37,000 applications for 13,000 courses for this academic this year. “The record number of CAO applications is bound to leave many potential students frustrated and without a college place. Lifting the cap on PLC places will undoubtedly ease this pressure and allow thousands to pursue a much-desired third-level course.”
The number of CAO applications have increased massively due to the economic downturn. Many people who would have sought employment instead of college places are applying to university. This year has also seen an unprecedented amount of mature student applications (over 15,000) and a further estimation 2,000 more Leaving Cert students seeking third-level places.
The new restrictions on social welfare, which could mean that those on jobseekers allowance risk losing benefit unless they are in education or training, may also have contributed to the rapid surge in CAO applications. However the new directive of the Higher Education Authority, forcing the number of staff members in higher education to be cut by 6 per cent from December 2008 to December 2010, means that points for the CAO may be on the rise even without the greater competition for places.
It is thought by career experts that point requirements for popular courses will rise considerably. Points for courses linked to the building industry are likely to fall however; student demand for these courses fell by 40 per cent last year. Points for law and architecture are also likely to drop due to the limited employment opportunities in these areas.