Lies, damned lies and CAO points offers. In many ways, the day that rolls inexorably round each August, when tens of thousands of college hopefuls receive their first-round CAO offers, feels more akin to theatre than anything else, taken as it is by expressions of ecstasy and anguish, by experts shouting down the airwaves, by an avaricious public greedily feeding on the highs and lows of its next generation. Switchboard teams will be kept busy by one armchair pundit after another offering their take on the meaning of it all. Everyone, in short, will have something to say about today’s offers and the trends they present.
For Trinity, ultimately, the news is not particularly encouraging, with the majority of courses experiencing a fall in points and an 8 per cent drop in first-preference applications – marking the College out as the university with the highest decline in applications nationwide. Thirty-six of Trinity’s 58 courses have seen their points plummet. It’s a blow to the College, the reputation of which – whisper it – seems to be wobbling slightly, after it fell out of the top 100 in the QS World University Rankings for the first time ever in June.
Trinity will doubtless point to a decline in applications from UK students, and with some validity given the influence of Brexit uncertainty. A 20 per cent decline in applications from Northern Ireland is unquestionably a huge factor in the overall drop in points across the College, along with a fall of 11 per cent in applications from Britain. It’s a strange situation, given that Trinity had viewed Brexit as an opportunity to cement itself as the EU’s foremost English-speaking university, but it does provide some – if not a complete – explanation for the points slide.
Nevertheless, it will surely be a disappointment to College that the major upgrades to its infrastructure do not appear to have done much to make it more attractive to potential students. Trinity’s much-publicised €1 billion Technology and Enterprise Campus (TTEC), heralded as the future of Irish innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as its E3 Institute and Business School (both under construction) have not boosted the popularity of Trinity’s courses in any significant way.
The national trend that occupied the most air time today was prospective students’ eschewal of the arts, with jobs-focused courses in the fields of engineering, construction and business rising. It isn’t difficult to see why
Trinity’s restructured science course, which will from this year replace its current general science courses with four strands from which students can choose, streamlines incoming students more effectively than the old model, which gave rise to sky-high points for direct-entry courses like nanoscience, which students were always able to specialise in under general science anyway.
The national trend that occupied the most air time today was prospective students’ eschewal of the arts, with jobs-focused courses in the fields of engineering, construction and business rising concurrently. It isn’t difficult to see why, given the dearth of discernible career paths for arts graduates, and it’s the same story in Trinity. Ancient and medieval history and culture, for instance, is down by an enormous 95 points, and even the arguably less flighty music has fallen by 45 points.
In Trinity, however, it’s not only the arts that have suffered. Courses across sectors, with varying degrees of perceived employability, have fallen dramatically – you need look only as far as the 93-point fall of computer science and language to see that it’s not only the arts that are suffering.
The idea that Trinity has been trading on its reputation for too long certainly seems to have some merit in light of today’s figures, and the publicity surrounding its infrastructural developments seems to have fallen largely on deaf ears
Another possible explanation for Trinity’s underwhelming CAO performance is the increasingly prohibitive cost of accommodation in Dublin, particularly in the city centre. It’s an issue that has plagued the county at every level for years now, and it shows no sign of going away. Trinity will need to address it if it is to appeal to students from outside the capital.
There is, however, some good news for Trinity in the shape of its European studies course, the points for which have increased along with demand by 21 points. Brexit, again, provides some explanation, reflecting a greater interest among prospective students in European geopolitics, as well as the fact that this year marks the first of Trinity’s new dual BA system with Columbia University.
In all, however, the signs are ominous for Trinity. The idea that it has been trading on its reputation for too long certainly seems to have some merit in light of today’s figures, and the publicity surrounding its infrastructural developments seems to have fallen largely on deaf ears among many prospective students. College must act decisively – and fast – to ensure that this year’s cross-disciplinary fall in points is a blip rather than evidence of a deeper malaise.