Mixed reactions as CAO offers show points decline for STEM subjects

21 Aug 2017

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Despite a national shortage of people in STEM jobs in Ireland, the CAO offers show that sci-tech courses are in decline.

More than 80,000 students are eagerly awaiting to hear whether they have gotten the CAO offers they need to get into the university or college they wanted to, but for those running courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), this year has proven to be disappointing.

Despite many of Ireland’s sci-tech companies crying out for Irish graduates to fill a national shortage, the CAO’s offers website shows that there has been a 4pc decline in the number of points needed to be accepted into a course.

As The Irish Times pointed out, students’ interest in architecture courses appears to have risen, with a noticeable 5pc increase in the number of points needed to be accepted into a course.

To take just a few examples of points decreases, Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) engineering degree was 500 points last year, but this year it has fallen to 480. Also, TCD’s computer science and language course has fallen from 465 to 443.

In University College Dublin (UCD), computer science also took a hit, with the necessary points dropping from 485 last year to 477 this year.

However, medicine in UCD has risen slightly from 730 to 734 for undergraduate entry, with a similar increase seen from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Reactions are mixed

The reaction from those involved with STEM on an educational and professional level has been mixed, but many emphasised the need to encourage more students to seriously look at STEM roles for future careers.

Mari Cahalane, head of the annual BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE), said that she did not see the drop in points as wholly negative.

“Organisers of the BTYSTE are very aware of just how important STEM education is for Ireland, particularly when experts predict more and more jobs will require science, technology or maths skills into the future,” she said.

“Ireland has an enormous opportunity ahead of it, as we are already seen as leading the way in innovative developments. However, we need to foster an early interest in STEM. Here, parents and teachers can play an important role in encouraging young students to take a greater interest in science and engineering subjects.”

Fujitsu Ireland’s chief executive, Tony O’Malley, felt that the news was discouraging, but remained optimistic that the points could increase once again.

“It’s disappointing to see a reversing trend towards STEM subjects in recent years, despite STEM subjects being considered one of the accelerating forces for our future economy in Ireland,” O’Malley said.

“Issues such as sustainability, managing the planet’s resources and using renewable energy appropriately are all challenges that can benefit from the work of mathematicians, scientists and engineers across many disciplines.”

He continued: “However, we are hopeful that the decrease in points requirements will result in greater accessibility for students who are interested in STEM subjects and will encourage greater take-up over the coming years.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic