There has been an increase in students putting third level courses related to agriculture and the environment as their first preference choice for study, according to the Central Application Office’s (CAO) July 1, preference data.

The data is broken down by course classification and level, and there is also a breakdown of applicants by county/region.

This year, there was an 8.6% increase in total applications to the CAO – up from 77,831 applications last year to 84,526 this year.

The total number of Level 8 applications increased by 6,034 to 77,356, while Level 7/6 applications also saw a jump by 2,034 to 42,161.

Level 8 course choices

This year, 504 applicants – an increase from 447 in 2020 – put a Level 8 agriculture course as their first preference choice, while 2,907, compared to 2,344 in 2020, mentioned an agriculture-related course somewhere in their CAO list.

There was also an increase in first preferences for environment-related courses – with first preferences jumping by 50% from 319 to 480. Total mentions also saw a large increase of 74%, from 2,783 in 2020 to 4,855 this year.

First preferences for veterinary-related courses increased from 964 last year to 1,115 this year. Veterinary medicine first preferences saw an increase from 562 in 2020 to 608 this year.

Interdisciplinary programmes and qualifications involving agriculture, forestry and veterinary first preferences saw an increase from 434 last year to 476.

Level 7/6 course choices

First preferences for agriculture courses in Level 7/6 CAO applications also increased from 747 in 2020 to 860 this year.

Interest in Level 7/6 environmental courses has also increased, with 344 first preferences this year compared to 257 last year.

Veterinary courses first preferences increased from 1,073 to 1,313.

Interdisciplinary programmes saw a decrease in first preferences, from 84 last year to 61 this year.