By Aoife Mullen
This year’s CAO offers indicated a change in course preferences, with students opting for the degrees they believe will offer them more job prospects.
Many of the Leaving Cert students that attended this year’s DCU Open Day admitted that the state of the economy was a concern for them in the future.
Last weekend, thousands of secondary school students from across the country came to DCU for the open day, where all of DCU’s schools and faculties showcased what they had to offer potential students during this recession.
Points for science, technology and agricultural courses surged this year. However arts and business courses, which would have been popular and in high demand in the past, saw a decline in the number of applicants and a reduction in points.
It indicated that students are becoming more influenced by the current state of Ireland’s economy when filling out their CAO forms and are moving towards courses they feel will offer them more employment prospects when they graduate.
One student expressed an interest in the Computer Applications course in DCU because it was general and offered him a better opportunity to get a job, even though he was more interested in games development but was unsure if he would get employment with such a degree.
Another student was interested in doing Accounting and Finance in DCU because they know it will secure them a job. They said that if the economy was in a better state they would be applying to do a course in sports science, but they were unsure if there was any jobs in that sector at the moment.
Many students said it was a mixture of their personal interests and the state of the economy that would influence how they will fill out their CAO form.
A student wanting to do Genetics and Cell Biology told the College View they had always been interested in the subject, but they know it is the best choice as “business fluctuates, but science is steady for employment opportunities.”
However, not all students were letting the economy affect their course choice; some were determined to do what they had a passion for. Student’s interested in General Nursing said they would go abroad to get a job once they finished in college “if that’s what it takes to do what you love.”
Whether or not the economy was affecting their course choice, most students were concerned about education cuts in the upcoming budget and said if fees were introduced or the grant was cut further, they would have to seriously consider whether or not they will apply to go to college in 2012.
Dr Pat O’Malley oversaw the open day for the School of Chemical Sciences and said “there was a very good attendance. The talks on each day were well attended, thus a continuing strong interest in the School of Chemical Sciences degree programmes.”
Head of the School of Chemical Sciences, Prof Conor Long expects an increase in the number of applicants to the school’s degree programmes, “If the trend in last year’s CAO figures continues, we would expect an increase in applications to our programmes next year. Last year, some of our programmes experienced a significant increase in demand.”
He also believes the current state of the economy is a factor students consider when filling out their CAO forms, “we believe that there has been a drift towards courses which have a specific career focus and this is responsible for the increase in demand for programmes in the sciences.”
Computing courses also saw a significant increase in applicants and points this year and Professor Michael Scott, Head of DCU’s School of Computing, expects more applicants in 2012, “We expect points to rise over the next few years.”
He agrees students are becoming “a lot more serious, and students and parents alike are steering towards courses, like computing courses, with good employment prospects.”
Business courses were in high demand during the Celtic Tiger years, but since the economic crisis began, there has been a decline in the number of applicants.
Sarah Lynch, Marketing and Developing Officer for DCU’s Business School said, “The current uncertainty with regard to fees and grants may well affect applications, and the number of students who can afford to attend university come 2012. If the current situation with grants and fees remains the same, we would expect to see an increase in applications, but at this stage it is very hard to know.”
Points for communications courses remained relatively unchanged this year. Head of the School of Communications, Patrick Kinsella, is expecting more applications this year.
Mr Kinsella doesn’t agree that the state of Ireland’s economy will influence student’s course choice, “Students are always trying to balance their interest in an area of study and the prospects of a career, I don’t think it is very different now from previous years.”