CAO points for entry into most college courses are set to increase significantly this year despite frantic efforts by the Government to ease upward pressure by creating thousands of extra third-level places.
Grade inflation in this year’s Leaving Cert results will see a record number of courses demand more than 600 points.
University sources said extra applications for high-demand courses are expected to translate into increases of 20 to 30 points for entry, with spikes of up to 50 or 60 points in extreme cases.
Some 51,000 students are set to receive college offers when they are issued online at 2pm on Friday. This is up about 4,000 from last year and represents one of the largest ever-intakes into higher education in the the State.
Sources say there has been a 7 per cent increase in CAO points for courses across the board. This is higher than expected given that grade inflation, on average, was 4.4 per cent for students under the new calculated grades process introduced because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It comes despite the addition of almost 5,000 additional college places which Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said will be for high-demand courses in medicine, nursing, post-primary education and science.
Points for many of these courses would have jumped higher were it not for additional places being created.
About 78 per cent of college applicants are understood to have received an offer from one of their top-three choices this year at honours degree or level eight courses. This rises to above 90 per cent among students at ordinary degree or higher diploma, know as level six or seven courses.
The increase in CAO points across many courses will come as a bitter disappointment to thousands who sat the Leaving Cert in previous years. These deferred applicants are concerned that their results have been devalued due to grade inflation this year and that they will miss out on college places as a result.
The general trend in increased demand this year is for courses which offer clear career pathways such as health, business and environmental courses. Demand for broader courses such as arts and humanities, in many cases, has remained steady or fallen.
Trinity College Dublin’s vice-provost, Prof Jürgen Barkhoff, said it had created 180 additional places across a range of high-demand courses, an increase of around 5 per cent of its capacity. UCD said it has increased its first year places for CAO applicants by 7 per cent in areas such as engineering, science, computer science and arts.