The “lion’s share” of this year’s 7,000 additional CAO applicants are coming from the EU, according to Prof Pól Ó Dochartaigh, the chair of the CAO.
Approximately 5,000 of the additional applications have come from the EU. The increases may be related to Brexit, as the UK, in comparison, has seen a major drop in EU applicants.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One yesterday, Ó Dochartaigh warned that the increase in applications – up nearly nine per cent compared to last year – could put a strain on the third-level sector.
He did, however, add that the increase “won’t necessarily have the kind of impact that you might expect”, as EU students often apply to a range of universities and decide not to take up a place in Ireland if they are offered it.
Ó Dochartaigh also said that grade inflation was a “real danger” and that universities will be “challenged” if leaving certificate grades increase as they did last year.
Ó Dochartaigh added that the scope for increasing places was “limited” and depended on “what courses you’re talking about”.
“Some of the courses that require significant physical infrastructure, or, for example, clinical placements and so on – the scope there is extremely limited”, he said.
“And in fact, it’s going to be difficult in some cases to even repeat the additionality that was added last year.”
Ó Dochartaigh also expressed concerns around the effect that increased places could have on staffing levels.
“The Republic has one of the highest participation rates in higher education in the world, but it is no more than mid-table in terms of the levels at which we fund it.”
“So even if we pack the students in”, he added, “we would end up with staff–student ratios that are in many courses worse than they are in our schools”.
A return to campus next year could also cause problems if student numbers increase, due to a lack of space.
Journalism courses have seen the biggest increase in demand, with applications increasing by nearly 60 per cent.
Meanwhile, courses such as pharmacy, medicine, health science, social sciences, architecture and ICT have also seen increases.
Law, languages and education courses have seen dips in the number of candidates applying to them via the CAO.