Sharp drop in applications for nursing and health courses

Arts, environment and language courses have seen a surge in first-preference college applications this year.

In contrast, nursing and many health-related courses are showing some of the steepest declines. Popular fields of study such as business, law and science are also down slightly this year.

Overall, the latest Central Application Office (CAO) figures as of March 1 show there are 78,000 college applications this year, down 1.5% from last year.

There are fewer mature applicants compared to 2021 (-25%), although this has been partly offset by an increase in European (+16%) and UK (+9%) applicants.

Overall, CAO points are expected to remain around last year’s record highs due to Education Minister Norma Foley’s pledge that leaving grades will not be lower than from last year.

There is particularly strong interest in environmentally related courses which have one of the highest increases in first preferences this year (+35%).

Climate and sustainability

Universities say this is reflected in an increase in requests for courses related to climate change and sustainability.

UCD, for example, says applications for its interdisciplinary degree in sustainability have increased by 43%, while urban planning and environmental policy have increased by 44%.

Other areas nationwide where there are significant increases in applications include languages ​​(+17%), architecture and construction (both up 6%).

Arts (+6%) and humanities (+4%) are also up for the second year in a row, reversing the downward trend in applications over the past few years.

In addition, interdisciplinary courses in the arts and humanities are up sharply (+59%).

The rebound in the arts at individual universities is striking. Maynooth University, for example, said its popular arts degree – which has the highest number of first-preference requests of any CAD course – has increased by 11% this year.

A similar trend can be seen at Trinity College Dublin, where demand for arts and humanities courses such as English Studies (+21%), European Studies (+23%) and Philosophy (+54%) %) is high. UCD also said its humanities course (+29%) rose significantly.

midwife down

Some of the biggest declines are in the health sector, such as nursing and midwifery, which is down 27% from a year ago.

In the broader field of health (-13%), the trend is uneven with physiotherapy (-9%) and pharmacy down (-7%), while medicine is up (+4%).

Agriculture is also down sharply (-19%), as are smaller sectors such as transport (-50%) and occupational health and medicine services (-41%).

Business and administration remains one of the most popular fields of study, but down slightly from last year (-3%).

The so-called Stem (science, technology, engineering, and math) field is a mixed bag this year.

Social and behavioral sciences are down (-6%) as well as biological and related sciences (-2%), while physical sciences are up (+5%).

ICT continues its upward trend (+6%) this year, while engineering remains unchanged.

The latest data is subject to change as late requests are considered when the CAO Change of Mind facility closes on July 1.


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