The Central Applications Office (CAO) has offered a place on at least one college course this morning to 52,374 of this year’s 80,766 applicants.
Across more than 800 honours (level 8) degrees that account for the bulk of CAO courses, Leaving Certificate points are down from last year for a little over half.
With no change in the first-round cut-off points for nearly one in 10, and increases limited to 15 points or less for two-thirds of just over 300 level 8 degrees with a higher entry threshold, it is a further sign of the so-called points race easing.
However, the allocation of additional places by colleges this year could be as much a factor as the changes made to Leaving Certificate grades and corresponding revisions to the CAO points system.
While overall applications are practically unchanged, nearly 1,700 more level 8 places have been offered by 35 colleges than they did a year ago, which could be a significant factor in the general drop in points.
The extent to which the reforms, which saw the number of Leaving Certificate grades fall from 14 to 8 at higher and ordinary levels, have been a factor depends on further information on students’ CAO points scores.
The data, which shows the proportion of each years’ school leavers who fell within different bands of CAO points has not yet been finalised, making it more difficult to analyse the factors behind points swings.
However, the available information shows colleges have had to rely less than before on random selection to allocate the final places on each course. This is a direct result of the new points being used, and students’ CAO totals no longer necessarily ending in a 5 or a 0.
There are 32 courses at level 8 in which some applicants were not offered a place despite having the same points as some who were, just under half the corresponding figure in 2016.
The categories in which highest proportions of courses saw points drop include teaching degrees, and there were lower entry requirements this year for over three-quarters of nursing degrees. Despite dips in demand, very nearly half of engineering and technology level 8 degrees have higher points, and the small number of architecture and construction degrees have more courses with higher points also. Nearly 61,000 applicants have now received a CAO offer so far this year.
The Round 1 points and comparisons with last year are shown for all courses in the12-page Choices for College supplement inside today’s Irish Examiner.