CAO study shows increased interest in STEM at third level
John Hennessy, chair of the Higher Education Authority

CAO study shows increased interest in STEM at third level

17 Apr 2013

A detailed analysis of applications for third-level study carried out by Dr Vivienne Patterson and Valerie Harvey of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) demonstrates a boosted interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses over the past five years.

The Central Applications Office (CAO) received 71,151 applications this year, the vast majority of which listed Level 8 courses (honours bachelor degree or higher diploma) as first preference.

Technology courses constituted 20.5pc of all Level 8 first preferences, with science at 7.5pc, computing at 6.6pc and engineering at 4.6pc, representing an increase from 2012’s figures.

In fact, over the past five years, Level 8 first preferences in computing have grown by 51pc, while engineering is up by 22pc, and science is up by 17pc.

For applications with Level 6 or 7 courses listed as first preference, technology courses account for 34pc. Science first preferences at this level amount to 11.2pc, engineering 10pc and computing 9.3pc.

In the same five-year period, computing course first preferences are up 41pc at this level and science is up 25pc.

Long-term opportunities

“Science and technology are providing and will provide major opportunities for Ireland. We need to ensure that we continue to grow the number of world-class graduates who not alone can work for tech and science-based companies but who will also set up companies of their own, as well as contribute to the wider society,” said HEA chair John Hennessy in response to these figures.

Hennessy welcomed the increased interest in STEM subjects and put it to guidance counsellors to ensure students will continue to pursue these programmes in future. He also advised that schools work together with higher education institutions and industry to make students aware of the long-term opportunities within these fields.

The full CAO study will be available on the HEA website this afternoon.

Elaine Burke
By Elaine Burke

Elaine Burke was editor of Silicon Republic until 2023, and is now the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. Elaine joined Silicon Republic in 2011 as a journalist covering gadgets, new media and tech jobs. She later served as managing editor before stepping up as editor in 2019. She comes from a background in publishing and is known for being particularly pernickety when it comes to spelling and grammar – earning her the nickname, Critical Red Pen.

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