Billy Ryle: Kerry’s CAO Applicants Will Be Near Top Of The Class In Securing College Places

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Kerry’s CAO applicants do very well in Round One as points show dramatic increase says Billy Ryle…

This year’s very generous calculated grades have led to a dramatic increase in points requirements for many third level courses.

The points for almost 70% of courses at Level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degrees) and about 60% at Level7/Level6 (Ordinary Bachelor Degrees/Higher Certificates) have increased.

While the majority of the 47,719 applicants to the CAO from the Leaving Cert class of 2020 will have the points to meet the course requirements, it will leave many candidates who are presenting previous years’ Leaving Cert results struggling to secure a college place.

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Unless the Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, intervenes, many of these applicants, who are innocent casualties of the calculated grades process, will find themselves out in the cold.

My opinion from the outset has been that candidates presenting Leaving Cert results from previous years should be assessed on the 2019 CAO points. They had little or no chance of competing with this year’s calculated grades’ inflation.

Kerry’s 1,725 Leaving Cert candidates achieved the outstanding Leaving Cert results that paved the path to college. They swept up a copious supply of offers in Friday’s CAO Round One offers.

Any remaining self-doubt turned to unconfined joy as a large majority of CAO applicants received a college offer.

On a pro rata population basis, Kerry’s CAO applicants will be close to the top of the class in securing college places. More than 70% of Kerry’s 2020 Leaving Cert cohort are likely to progress to higher education.

53,815 CAO applicants received at least one of the 78,950 courses on offer on Friday afternoon.

The offers consisted of 47,162 at Level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degrees) where demand is strong and 31,788 at Level7/Level 6 (Ordinary Bachelor Degrees/Higher Certificates) where interest continues to decline.

CAO always issues more offers than there are places available in anticipation of a level of refusal by applicants.

Offers are issued independently in respect of the two lists (Level 8 and Level 7/Level 6), so that 25,135 applicants received two offers, one from each list.

80% of the 47,162 applicants, who were offered a Level 8 course, received one of their top three preferences.

A phenomenal 98% of the 31,788, who were offered a Level 7/Level 6 course also received one of their top three preferences. About 60,500 can expect to receive at least one offer of a college place before the end of the offers’ season.

Taking all the various Government announcements into account, there could be as many as 3,500 extra CAO college places available this year.

The Government tried hard to provide as many extra places as possible in order to keep points requirements down, However, the effort wasn’t an overwhelming success as there were some spectacular increases in points for many courses.

The overriding conclusion from the points’ trends is that CAO applicants were totally focussed on the jobs market.

They applied in large numbers for courses with strong employment growth, especially STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses, which are regarded as job friendly.

UCC’s flagship Biological and Chemical Sciences degree hit the heady heights of 510*points, up 12 points while UL’s Physical Education Degree has seen a massive jump from 498* last year to 532* this year.

There was strong demand for Business, Psychology and Environmental Science with UCC’s Biological & Earth Science Degree jumping from 412 to 467. A number of courses crashed the 600 points’ barrier including UCD’s Economics and Finance degree.

Courses in the build environment, construction and architecture are in strong demand. Points’ requirements for teaching, nursing and law showed a noticeable increase.

HASS (Humanities, Arts, Social Science) courses continue to be offered at modest point’s levels as applicants have lost total confidence in the employment value of the liberal and creative arts.

The Arts Degrees at UCC, MICE Limerick and NUIG were each offered at a comfortable 300 points.

As expected, the contribution of frontline workers during the Coronavirus pandemic inspired a massive swing to health science courses which invariably rocketed out of reach of most CAO applicants.

Dentistry at UCC, for example, requires a staggering 613* points this year – almost a perfect Leaving Cert exam result! Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Medicine, Veterinary, Occupational Therapy and related health sciences were beyond the reach of most applicants.

School leavers continue to rush to college in unprecedented numbers. Because of an unexpected economic recession, applications for college remain high.

The steady flow also of mature and non-traditional applications is a very healthy development as everybody deserves a second chance. A quota of places was reserved by CAO for the 8,573 mature applicants and the 12,619 applicants from the QQI/PLC sector.


• Kerry’s 1725 candidates highly achieved in the Leaving Cert calculated grades
• Kerry’s CAO applicants did extremely well in Friday’s Round One offers
• An applicant was offered the highest course preference/s to which s/he was entitled
• When an applicant was offered a course preference, s/he was excluded from any course preference lower than the one offered.
• In the second or subsequent rounds of offers, an applicant won’t be considered for a preference lower than that already offered.
• An applicant who was offered a preference, which is not her/his first preference, may subsequently be offered a higher preference
• It’s not necessary to accept an offer in order to be considered for a higher preference
• An applicant who has accepted an offer is not obliged to accept any subsequent offer.
• CAO available place facility opened at noon on Monday, 14th September
• Accept CAO Round one offers by 5.15pm, Wed, 16thSeptember
• CAO Round Two offers and points are available from 10am, Wed., 23rd September
• Accept CAO Round Two offer by 12 noon, Fri, 25thSeptember

Billy Ryle is a Career Guidance Counsellor and Educational Commentator

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