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First preferences break through 9,000 in 2020 CAO applications as UCD remains university-of-first-choice in Ireland

Thursday, 9 July, 2020

Posted 8 July 2020

Surge in first preferences for UCD degrees as applicants use change-of-mind window to express their preferences.

At the deadline (1 July 2020) for change-of-mind applications through the CAO, UCD has experienced an increase of 597 (7.0%) first preferences over 2019.  Some 9,072 applicants placed UCD number one on their CAO and the university retains its university-of-first-choice position in Ireland.

The University has 42 entry routes to degrees on offer through the CAO.  Three are graduate entry routes: DN401 MedicineDN301 Veterinary Medicine and DN411 Radiography. This year the University introduced a new cross disciplinary degree in Sustainability (DN240), which spans environmental science and engineering, social sciences, policy and law.

First preferences increased from 2019 levels in two thirds of the courses. The largest increases in terms of numbers were DN650 Commerce, DN720 PsychologyDN300 Veterinary Medicine (undergrad entry), DN420 Physiotherapy, DN201 Computer Science, and DN600 Law.  Across these six programmes the increase in first preference applications ranged from 100 to 45.

The six subjects with the largest percentage increase in first preferences this year were: DN272 Horticulture, Landscape & Sportsturf Management 83%, DN411 Radiography (graduate entry) 70%, DN262 Human Nutrition 52%, DN420 Physiotherapy 25%, DN720 Psychology 25% and DN650 Commerce 23%.

Commenting on the figures, the Registrar and Deputy President of UCD, Professor Mark Rogers said:

“2020 will be recorded as a remarkable year as school leavers grappled with the disruption to their studies, the cancelation of the Leaving Certificate here in Ireland and of final State examinations in many countries, the adjustment of university application processes to take account of calculated grades and the uncertainty around how college life will be structured under prevailing public health restrictions dealing with COVID-19. 

We are encouraging students to plan to spend as much time as possible on campus so that they can experience the benefits of personal interaction and engagement with their fellow students and faculty.

Student interest in the healthcare professions is up year-on-year across each discipline; medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and radiography.  Undoubtedly, the focus on these professions in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is a significant contributory factor.”

Business, Finance and Law

UCD is well ahead with first preferences up 11.4% compared with national figure for business, administration and law (up 0.7%).  DN650 Commerce, DN600 Law and DN670 Economics & Finance all experienced strong increases in first preferences.

Healthcare Professions

Nationally, UCD attracts 14% of all first preferences in health and welfare.  Unsurprisingly, applicant interest in this area has increased with the focus on healthcare professions dealing with COVID-19. Nationally, first preferences are up 3.4% while at UCD they are up 9.7%. 


Reporting on the January applications last March, UCD stated that the powerhouse degrees DN150 Engineering and DN201 Computer Science had experienced increases in first preferences. By July these subjects showed further increases and DN200 Science had also increased first preferences and now has the largest number of first preference applications for a single entry programme at UCD.   


While DN100 Architecture dipped last year, first preferences have increased by almost 12% this year.

Social Sciences

DN700 BSc in Social Sciences experienced a strong increase in first preferences since March (21%) and year on year is up almost 6%.

DN750 Sociology and Social Policy experienced a dip in first preferences after a substantial increase last year.

DN720 Psychology was one of the largest movers in first preferences with an increase of 25% this year.

Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences

At a national level, UCD accounts for almost 70% of first preferences in this ISCED category.  The category is up 6.5% at UCD compared with a fall of 2% nationally.  Most of the growth is in the three veterinary programmes. 

DN262 Human Nutrition had a 52% increase in first preferences.

Arts & Humanities

Reflecting the national trend, DN520 Arts, DN530 Humanities, and DN541 International Languages experienced falls in first preferences. 

By Eilis O'Brien, UCD University Relations