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UCD maintains number 1 position as university-of-first-choice for CAO applicants

Posted: 10 March, 2020

Business is booming and demand for STEM remains strong

University College Dublin remains the university-of-first-choice among level 8 CAO applicants with an increase of over 150 listing UCD first, despite a decrease of 997 in the overall number of level 8 first preference applicants nationally.

Over the past number of years there has been a growing national trend for applicants to register but not indicate course preferences until later in the year.  Applicants have until 1 July to make their final choice. This year the number has risen by 20% to 6,428, up from 5,351 in 2019.

This year the University added a new, interdisciplinary degree (opens in a new window)DN240 BSc in Sustainability, which offers students two career pathways, one focusing on environmental science and engineering and one focusing on social sciences, policy and law.  Interest in this degree, and in other environment-related degrees, (opens in a new window)DN130 City Planning & Environmental Policy (+8%) and (opens in a new window)DN253 Agri-Environmental Sciences (+19%) is strong, reflecting growing engagement in tackling climate change and in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Business is booming as demand for places in (opens in a new window)Commerce (DN650), (opens in a new window)Commerce International (DN660), and (opens in a new window)Business & Law (DN610) is reflected in first preference increases of 13%, 20% and 2.7%.  

Interest in STEM remains strong.

Nationally the number of mature applicants (aged over 23) has fallen by 560 (-7%) to 7,273.

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

“Once again, we are delighted to see the continuing demand for places at UCD and the confidence students have in the quality of our offerings.

This year we have introduced a new BSc in Sustainability that recognises the need for an interdisciplinary approach to tackling global environmental challenges. This reflects the vision of our strategy which seeks to create a sustainable global society as a matter of urgency.

The interest in business, finance and law degrees is strong and these students, along with students on the majority of our degrees, have the opportunity to take part of their studies overseas and so prepare for global careers, whether based here in Ireland or overseas.”


The general interest in STEM is reflected in increased first preferences in the powerhouse degrees (opens in a new window)DN150 Engineering and (opens in a new window)DN201 Computer Science(opens in a new window)DN200 Science is down but the numbers of students who list this first is still sizable (677). 

Business, Finance and Law

Demand for business and law related degrees at UCD is running ahead of the national figures with significant increased first preferences in (opens in a new window)DN650 Commerce and (opens in a new window)DN660 Commerce International(opens in a new window)DN600 Law and (opens in a new window)DN610 are also up.

(opens in a new window)DN670, Economics & Finance, which last year became the first degree to require a minimum of 605 points, has experienced a slight decline (-1.7%) in first preferences this year.  First preferences are up 5.5% for (opens in a new window)DN230 Actuarial & Financial Studies, which sits within the College of Science.

Arts & Humanities

Overall, first preferences in Arts & Humanities are performing better than the national trend.

The 3-year joint honours (opens in a new window)BA, DN520 is down 4.1%, while the 4-year BA Humanities (opens in a new window)DN530 is up 5.4%.  These programmes went through a structural transition two years ago and applications are beginning to settle now.  

Social Sciences

(opens in a new window)DN700 BSc in Social Sciences is up 3.6% in first preferences.  The degree offers five pathways and includes internship or study abroad options.  

(opens in a new window)DN720 Psychology saw a massive increase in first preference last year (+44%) and its popularity continues with a further 9.2% increase this year.

(opens in a new window)DN750 Sociology & Social Policy, which also experienced a significant increase last year (+26%), maintained its market share with an increase of 1.9% in first preferences this year.

Architecture & the Environment

(opens in a new window)DN100 Architecture held its demand level with a slight increase (1.9%) in first preferences. (opens in a new window)DN120 Landscape Architecture experienced an increase of 22%.

Agriculture & Nutrition

Overall, degrees in this category were down 4.1% with (opens in a new window)DN250 Agricultural Science the biggest faller.  However, within the categories, (opens in a new window)DN262 Human Nutrition was up 30%, (opens in a new window)DN252 Dairy Business was up 27% and (opens in a new window)DN253 Agri-Environmental Sciences up 19%.


(opens in a new window)DN300 Veterinary Medicine, which attracts over 500 first preferences, is down 2.7%, while (opens in a new window)DN310 Veterinary Nursing is static.

Healthcare Professions

Last year first preference applications for medicine, (opens in a new window)DN400, fell below 700.  This year they have recovered and are up 2.6%. (opens in a new window)DN410 Radiography(opens in a new window)DN420 Physiotherapy and (opens in a new window)DN425 Health & Performance Science all experienced increases in first preferences.

Although there is some variation within nursing, overall, first preferences are down 4%.

By Eilis O'Brien, UCD University Relations