Universities handed out a record number of CAO round one offers to meet the growing demand from school-leavers chasing jobs in the economy.
They opened more places in courses leading to careers in areas such as Stem and second-level teaching where employers are crying out for graduates.
But even with the extra offers, points for many courses rose or held strong, reflecting the volume of applications and high grades achieved by Leaving Cert candidates.
In one remarkable development, points crashed through the 600 ceiling for the first time with students needing to rely on maths bonus points. University College Dublin’s (UCD) prestigious BSc Economics and Finance hit 601, because there were so many applicants with at least 600 points each, all competing for the 50 CAO places on the course.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that universities are not giving a blanket guarantee that students who appeal their exam grades and get a late CAO offer in September are assured a place this year. This is despite the High Court ruling in the Rebecca Carter case which forced speedier results and CAO offers and a quicker appeals process this year to smooth the path to college.
UCD, the University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Maynooth University are among those that have made a record number of round one offers.
Overall, the CAO issued 74,567 offers to 51,513 applicants, up from 50,746 applicants last year. Application levels were broadly similar between the two years.
Among them were 43,851 Level Eight offers – up from 42,301 last year – reflecting the strong demand from school-leavers for entry to these honours degree courses.
Level Eight courses are offered in both universities and institutes of technology.
But there was a drop in offers for Level Seven and Six courses – at 30,806, it was down from 31,351 in 2018 – which is causing concern to the institutes of technology.
CAO round one has seen the usual swings and roundabouts in terms of points, reflecting the level of demand for particular disciplines and courses. At Level Eight, points rose in almost 400 courses, but also dropped in almost 400 courses, while more than 80 were stable and others were new courses for which no comparison could be made. General nursing was among the disciplines where points fell.
While more Leaving Cert students are taking higher-level papers, there was no significant change in the overall breakdown of CAO points with, for instance, 13.3pc of candidates achieving 500 points or more, compared with 13.2pc last year. The number of courses requiring a minimum 500 points rose slightly from 114 to 120.
Among the Stem courses where points increased were TCD’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences up 11 to 520, while its Mathematics shot up 32 points to 566.
At UCD, Engineering is up one to 511 and will take in up to 265 students as the demand for places is strong, while points for its Computer Science are up 10 to 488.
UCD has also increased places for Science, where points rose by one, to 521. At Maynooth University, the BSc in Biological and Biomedical Sciences climbed from 445 to 462.
In contrast, UCD’s Business and Law course dropped 10 points, while points for Commerce were stable, but it is increasing places to 220. Similarly, points for its three-year Arts degree have fallen from 366 to 336, although the number of places has increased by 50 to 400.
DCU’s Institute of Education has opened an additional 39 places. Its new Post-Primary Teacher Education programme (Gaeilge with French, German or Spanish), aimed at addressing the shortage of language teachers at post-primary level, proved popular with almost 45 places offered and entry points at 410. Points for the BEd in Early Childhood Education rose by 10 to 398, while Maynooth’s BSc Science with Education went from 434 points to 451.
The president of the Union of Students in Ireland has said there’s anecdotal evidence the worsening accommodation crisis in the capital is forcing students to look at regional college options.
“Our issue is where students are being forced to take courses in institutions and colleges that may be closer to them because of the accommodation crisis,” said Lorna Fitzpatrick.
It was a busy day at the National Parents Council post primary (NPCpp) helpline where, within the first three hours of the release of the CAO offers, 200 calls were recorded.