How do CAO Applications work?

Information for Staff

The CAO (Central Applications Office) manages most undergraduate applicants for the Higher Education Institutes in Ireland. All EU applicants for first year of undergraduate degree courses (excluding distance and online learning) apply via CAO.

How does CAO make offers?

Four pieces of infomation must come together to enable the main round of offers to issue (round 1):

one Entry requirements - these are known well in advance as they must be published and available to schools two years in advance so potential applicants can make appropriate subject choices.

Number of applicants - this is not final until after the "change of mind" closing date of 1 July. 

 three Leaving Certificate results - which issue in mid August each year. Round 1 offers usually issue the following Monday.
 four Number of offers - Admissions determines the appropriate number of offers to make to fill the places based on the history of acceptance rate and other trends.

When these four pieces of information are combined the CAO computer programme, checks all applicants for eligibility. Then it ranks eligible applicants on the basis of their points scores, and issues offers based on the highest preference to which the applicant is entitled. 

Please note: there are two rounds prior to round 1:

Round A: early July - mature applicants and those who have deferred from the previous year

Round 0: early August - QQI-FET, graduate entry and balance of mature applicants.

Round 1 issues on the Thursday following the issue of the Leaving Certificate results (mid-August)
After Round 1 offers are made on a weekly basis to fill any remaining spaces until the end of September.

What are the roles and responsibilities for the CAO Applications?

Two offices in UCD Registry are involved with recruiting and admitting EU undergraduate students - Student Recruitment and Admissions. Governing Boards are not directly involved with the admission process for most standard applicants but are required to provide the necessary information.

Student Recruitment Governing Boards Admissions
  • Schools Liaison
  • Open Days
  • Prospectus
  • MyUCD website
  • Provides Admissions with quotas for following (including sub-quotas for Access categories) in November
  • Provides updates for CAO Handbook in March (e.g. in March 2022 for Handbook 2023)
  • Liaises with Admissions about any changes to entry requirements or programme pathways.
  • Assesses mature applicants and returns decisions to admissions.


How do I change the entry requirements for my programme?

Any change to entry requirements for undergraduate programmes needs to be notified to second-level chools at least two years in advance of implementation, so that potential applicants can make appropriate subject choices for their Leaving Certificate. Proposed changes must be submited using the form PDARF7 available on the University Secretariat web page. They must be approved first by Governing Board and then by UPB. Please contact Admissions to discuss proposed changes for advice before submitting.

What publications and statistics are available?

Entry Requirements leaflet published by Admissions in September each year for entry the following year.

UCD Undergraduate Prospectus published by Student Recruitment in September each year for entry the following year. 


Application, admission and retention statistics (UCD Intranet) are produced regularly throughout the year. Any requests for additional statistics must be made in writing to the Admissions Officer.

How do I access a list of my incoming first years?

Lists of CAO acceptances are available to Programme Directors and College Office staff via InfoHub.

What are the alternative entry pathways?

We have the following access and progression routes