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Strong demand for STEM degrees in CAO applications

Posted 11 March, 2019

UCD remains university-of-first-choice among Level 8 applicants

UCD remains the university-of-first-choice among level 8 CAO applicants (8,483) despite the significant reduction in entry routes over the past number of years. UCD now has 38 undergraduate entry routes and offers students the opportunity of specialising later in their degrees.  This year the University added a third graduate entry option in professional healthcare with the introduction of DN411 Radiography.

Across Ireland, the number of Level 8 courses offered via CAO has increased from 921 in 2018 to 1,022 in 2019, despite calls for streamlining and reforming of routes to higher education.

The total number of applications received by CAO at the first deadline 1 February is 73,034.  Applicants for Level 8 courses number 64,275; up 2.6%. UCD first preferences are down 1.1% from the same date in 2018 with the overall number of applicants down 0.7%.

Commenting on the data, Deputy President and Registrar, Professor Mark Rogers said:

“The strength of engineering (up 8%), computing (up 14%) and science (up 3.6%) applications is not only a reflection on the economy but a recognition that these skills are increasingly useful in the wider society.

We also see an uplift in interest in degrees relating to the environment, which is possibly as a result of the growing activism among young people who want to force political changes to safeguard the planet.

I welcome the increase in the number of DARE and HEAR applicants (up 6.2% and 7.4% nationally).  We actively encourage these students and have put in place extra resources and supports for them.    Unsurprising in the current economic environment, the number of mature students (over 23 years of age) and QQI-FET applicants is down on last year.

The CAO picture will change between now and 1 July deadline to take account of the 5,351 applicants who have yet to list their preferences, the additional applicants from non-leaving certificate cohorts, and the change of mind option available.”


Reflecting the national trend, demand for DN150 Engineering is extremely strong. First preferences have increased year-on-year for the past number of years and are up a further 8% this year. As UCD has a single entry route in Engineering, students coming in through this CAO code will specialise later in their degrees into construction-related areas such as civil engineering, interdisciplinary areas such as biomedical engineering and computer-related areas such as electronic engineering.

Computer Science

DN201 Computer Science also continues to attract strong numbers. First preferences are up 14% this year. UCD increased the class size to 124 in response to student demand and employer interest in graduates. Nationally applications for ICT Level 8 degrees has increased by 5%.


One of the largest science programmes in the country, DN200 Science takes in over 400 students annually and lets these students choose their preferred pathways across biological sciences, chemistry, and physics/mathematical subjects. First preference demand for this un-denominated entry route increase by 3.6% this year.

Law, Business and Finance

DN600 Law first preferences are up 12% while DN610 Business & Law numbers are down by 12.5% levelling out to a similar combined number of first preferences as last year.

DN650 Commerce first preferences are slightly down. DN660 Commerce International is also down on 2018.

DN230 Actuarial and Financial Studies recovered from a slight dip last year and first preferences are just above the 2017 figure at 138. Demand for DN670 Economics & Finance continues to be strong and first preferences are up almost 15%.

Healthcare Professions

Nationally, demand is down across the board and this is reflected in the first preference applications to UCD for nursing, medicine, radiography and physiotherapy.

Last year, UCD reformed its traditional BA single entry and small denominated single subject codes into a suite of 6 pathways. These are more closely aligned to Arts & Humanities Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences Bachelor of Science. The former Bachelor of Social Science is now a BSc in Social Policy & Sociology.

Arts & Humanities

First preference applications for the 3-year DN520 Arts are down 21% while first preferences for the 4-year DN530 Humanities are up by 49%.

Although CAO applications under the ISCED category for languages increased by 20%, the first preference numbers for DN541 BA Modern Languages are down 12%. Applicants may also choose a language as part of the Arts, Humanities and Business programmes.

Social Sciences

DN700 BSc in Social Sciences is a four-year degree that includes the option of an internship. First preferences for DN700 fell by 11% from the 2018 figure.

Although smaller in size than DN670 Economics & Finance, DN710 Economics saw the largest percentage increase in first preferences for a UCD course with a 95% increase to 39 on first preferences from 2018.

DN720 Psychology saw a significant increase in first preference numbers up by 44% to 325.

DN750 BSocSci in Social Policy & Sociology also saw a restoration of first preferences; up 26% on last year.

Architecture and the Environment

The CAO category for architecture and construction (ISCED 073) shows a national increase in first preferences of 5%. At UCD, DN100 Architecture experienced a fall in first preferences – down 6.2% from an all-time high in 2018.

DN120 Landscape Architecture is up in first preferences.

DN130 City Planning and Environmental Policy saw a significant increase in first preferences (up 81%). This may reflect a growing interest among young students in environmental issues and increased activism around sustainability and protecting our planet.

Agriculture and Nutrition

DN253 Agri-Environmental Sciences and DN271 Forestry also experienced increases in first preferences. While DN252 Dairy Business and DN262 Human Nutrition saw sizeable falls. Overall, Agriculture first preferences were down 16%.


First preferences for DN300 Veterinary Medicine remain static this year. Applications for DN301 are up 5.6%. DN320 Veterinary Nursing fell by 5.2%.

By Eilis O'Brien, UCD University Relations