CAO applications for high-point courses see increase in face of Leaving Cert changes

Preferences for courses such as law and medicine increase while those of arts and humanities drop

Analysis of over 77,800 applications for higher learning through the CAO this year shows that applications for high-points courses such as law, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and physiotherapy have risen while applications to the arts, humanities, and languages have dropped.


This draw toward areas of study that lead to stronger employment prospects and well-paying jobs may be in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, which experts project to cause an uncertain job market for prospective workers. 


More than half of students who had applied through the CAO adjusted their course choices in May and June in the aftermath of the Leaving Certificate exams’ cancellation.


Since last year’s CAO, applications have seen a 25% increase in physiotherapy, followed by a 17% increase in dentistry and 16% in both veterinary medicine and law. Additionally, courses related to environmental science, architecture, engineering, medicine, and secondary education saw significant increases of between six and eight percent of applicants.


By contrast, applications for courses in the arts and humanities dropped by nine percent, followed by languages; agriculture; and design and media. 


Almost 92% of applications through the CAO this year were for honours degree or level-eight courses rather than ordinary degree courses. 

Irish Times career guidance columnist Brian Mooney wrote that students may believe that this year’s changed grading system, through which the Leaving Cert exams were replaced with calculated grades, could increase their chances at scoring more points and securing positions in higher-point courses. Additionally, because less international students have applied for courses in Ireland, there is speculation that high-demand courses might require fewer points than in the past. 

The option to amend course choices through the CAO system closed for students on July 1.

The CAO received 73,923 applications by the initial deadline for first-year undergraduate courses on February 1. 

The early figures showed a lean towards career-specific choices, with a decline in applications to general courses or precarious industries.

In 2019, Trinity received over 7,000 first-preference applications, with 17,913 applications received through the CAO overall.

Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown is a Senior Fresher English Studies student, and the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News.