8,959 first preferences as UCD remains university-of-first-choice

Nationally, CAO first preference numbers for level 8 degrees has increased by 3% to 65,031.  UCD attracts 13.8% of these first preferences and remains the university-of-first-choice in Ireland.  This year, based on figures from the first CAO deadline of 1 February, UCD attracted 8,959 first preferences.  Circa 5% of applicants to the CAO did not specify their course choice and have until 1 July to list their preferences.  The number of students who utilise this “change of mind” window is growing every year as students wait until they have sat their exams to make their final choice.

UCD figures reflect the growing confidence in the economy with subjects such as engineering, architecture, law all increasing in first preferences.

Arts and Humanities:

Although the BA (DN500) has witnessed a fall in popularity in recent years as students veered towards STEM subjects, this year Ireland’s largest entry course has increased first preferences by 8.3%.  The most popular Arts subjects remain: English, History, Sociology, Economics, Politics & International Relations and Geography.

Maths related subjects:

The increased demand in maths-related subjects reflects the growing number of students taking Higher Level maths in the Leaving Certificate and perhaps their growing confidence.  Engineering (DN150) is up 22% on 2015 to 525 first preferences, Actuarial and Financial Studies (DN230) is up 35% with both Quantitative Business (DN670) and the Maths & Physical Sciences stream within Omnibus Science (DN200) up 4%.


An increase of 21.5% in first preferences places Architecture (DN100) at UCD back towards 2008 levels.  The peak for architecture was in 2005 when 384 students gave their first preferences to the subject at UCD.  Structural Engineering and Architecture (DN140) has increased by 28% this year. Nationally, demand for architecture has risen by 13.5% compared to 2015.


After a small decline in first preferences last year, Science at UCD (DN200) increased by 7% to over 700.  Students can, if they wish, pre-select a stream; biological, chemical or maths/physics and this year sees a growing number of students (28%) opting not to specify a choice at this point in time.

Business & Law:

The three flagship degrees of Business & Law, BCL (DN600), BComm (DN650) and Business & Law (DN610) attract over 1,000 first preferences between them with the BComm accounting for almost half of those.

Study abroad on a steady incline:

The first preferences for Commerce International (DN660) which includes a year studying at a partner university overseas, have increased to 221.  Spanish is the most popular business language but a growing number of students (64) hope to take Chinese.  Arts International (DN541) sees an increase of 20% in its first preferences.  French and Spanish remain the most popular subject in the BA International.

Regardless of whether or not they are in an international programme, almost 1 in 5 UCD students take some of their degree abroad in one of 400 partner universities.


The main agricultural science degree, Agriculture (DN250) – which had been on a very steep incline for the last number of years, fell this year, as did the small direct entry streams such as Dairy Business.  Food Science (DN261) and Human Nutrition (DN262) are both up in first preferences by a combined 11%.


UCD first preferences reflect the national trends with nursing generally on the increase (21% compared with 11% nationally)), In Human Medicine, demand has fallen nationally by 1.1%.  At UCD, undergraduate medicine remains static with a small decline in first preferences for graduate entry. Physiotherapy (DN420) is up 9% at UCD compared to 5% nationally and Radiography (DN410) is down by 10%; a return to 2014 levels.

Veterinary Medicine (DN300) is down over 9% to 525 first preferences.

The Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Mark Rogers, commented:

“UCD remains the university-of-first-choice in Ireland.  We have been working on creating an educational environment that stimulates our students through flexible teaching and learning practices and through a curriculum that is informed by our researchers.  Our aim is to give our students the learning skills to contribute to society, whatever career path they take.”