Students in Ireland appear to be catching on to the future career opportunities in science and technology. The CAO has released its latest figures, showing a 64pc surge in the number of students expressing a first preference for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses between 2008 and 2012.
The number of students expressing a first preference for science courses, including computing, at honours degree level, also increased by 18pc this year, the CAO has indicated.
Agriculture courses have also been getting renewed interest from students applying for third-level places. Between 2008 and 2012, first preference options for agriculture increased by 98pc.
Regarding computing and computer science courses, there has been a strong increase in first preferences for courses through the CAO. For instance, applications for computer science at NUI Maynooth are up 60pc, while there has been a 44pc rise in applications for computer science at UCD.
Applications for computer science at TCD are also up 28pc, while applications for computing at Letterkenny IT are up 18pc.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has strongly welcomed the news, as has Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).
Dr Graham Love, SFI’s director of Policy and Communications, said today that attitudes towards science as a career are changing.
He said this was in line with the enhancement of Ireland’s scientific infrastructure, its talent pool and the increase in opportunities that now exist.
"Ireland is seeing the value of scientific training as we become a high-tech nation. This is the path to recovery and a sustainable future," said Love.
Tom Boland, chief executive at the HEA, said today’s news is very welcome.
"The higher-education institutions have been making available more places in these fields of study and we’ve been actively encouraging students to express their preferences for such options. It is vital for Ireland’s future economic and social development that we have a greater number of top-class graduates in science and technology," he said.
Ireland’s changed economic vista has also been reflected in the change in application levels for different courses.
For instance, over the five-year period 2008-2012, while science recorded a 63.5pc increase in first preferences and agriculture increased by 98pc, first preferences for courses in the built environment fell by 70.5pc and in architecture by 48.8pc.
The HEA said today that in addition to more places at undergraduate level in technology, it has also rolled out a series of conversion courses for graduates of non-technology disciplines who wish to transfer into that field.