Comment & Analysis
Aug 15, 2019

After a Torrid Year, Trinity Steadies the Ship on CAO Points

The College has emerged from this year's CAO points ordeal without much further damage to its reputation.

Cormac WatsonDeputy Editor
Róisín Power for The University Times

Provost Patrick Prendergast undoubtedly had a restless sleep last night: CAO results day could have been disastrous for him.

It has not been an easy year for the College. Trinity slid down four points to 108th in the QS World University Rankings, the number of UK applicants dropped by 13 per cent – largely due to Brexit – and the Trinity Education Project (TEP) has been a near-constant headache for the College. A tough CAO results day would have been the cherry on top of a difficult year for Trinity.

The College can breathe a sigh of relief, however, as it has actually emerged looking better than before, with points climbing for many courses in various disciplines and the number of first-choice applicants remaining high.


The recession has etched a mark into the minds of most people who lived through it – a mark that is most clearly seen in recent year’s CAO results. The job security and generous paycheck promised by a STEM job continue to entice students, with points increasing in most of Trinity’s STEM courses.

The decrease in points for business studies may dishearten the College after the millions it’s ploughed into Trinity’s new Business School

This comes after a slight blip for the College last year, when science courses were restructured and general science was replaced with four strands of science courses. Many leaving certificate students, perhaps put off by the new system, steered clear.

But the subject has bounced back this year, with geography and geoscience up 22 points to 435, biological and biomedical sciences rising to 520 from 509, and physical sciences increasing by one point to 510. Engineering and maths continue to increase steadily – again an indication of students’ job-oriented CAO choices. It seems the College’s bold decision to restructure the science degree and its investment in projects like the Technology and Enterprise Campus (TTEC) and the new E3 building are paying off.

The College will probably be most happy with the performance of arts courses. As part of TEP – Trinity’s upheaval of its curriculum – Trinity’s traditional TSM system was replaced with a joint-honours degree programme where students can only choose combinations of subjects that are in the same tier.

The TEP-induced furore among students appears to have had little effect on the number of students opting to study arts in Trinity

The change was met with mistrust from students, particularly first years who would have been most adversely affected. If they have to repeat a year, they have to fit into the new joint-honour degree programme, meaning they may not have been able to continue to study the combination they started through the TSM system.

All of the TEP-induced furore among students, however, appears to have had little effect on the number of students opting to study arts in Trinity. A massive drop off in points would have been a damning indictment of another of TEP’s innovations, but points for a number of arts courses – history and psychology in particular – saw considerable increases.

The College’s new modern languages system, which bundles together the languages and streamlines their points, resulted in an overall fall in some language-based courses, but the College will doubtless argue it’s made up for by the greater efficiency of the new system.

The decrease in points for business studies may dishearten the College after the millions it’s ploughed into Trinity’s new Business School. It remains to be seen whether this decrease in points is because of a lack of interest among incoming freshers or because of an increase in places in business courses. But an increase in BESS points and a whopping 40 per cent increase in applicants for global business will have made College very happy.

All in all, this year’s results will be considered a moderate success for Trinity. TEP has not decimated the number of Trinity applications, and a fifth of students put Trinity down number one on their CAO, showing that going to Trinity is still an alluring prospect for many leaving certificate students.

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