The Central Application’s Office (CAO) has issued its first round of course offers for 2021. Approximately 82,175 round-one offers have now been issued to 55,221 applicants. According to the CAO, these offers consist of 49,358 level 8 offers and 32,817 level 6 and 7 course offers.

Students received CAO course offers amid the news that, due to grade inflation and a variety of other factors, it was likely many would not receive their first-choice courses – even if they scored well in the Leaving Cert (LC).

Nationwide, the 2021 LC results included a record number of top-scoring students and an overall increase in point percentages.

The CAO data shows that 24,758 (50%) of the first round of level 8 offers are for an applicant's first preference course, with 39,063 (79%) level 8 offers for one of their top three preferences. For level 6/7 offers, 29,365 (89%) are for a first-preference course, while 32,314 (98%) are for one of their top three.


In 2020, Irish Country Living reported that the points required for courses increased for over two-thirds of level 8 courses and over 60% of level 6/7 courses. This stemmed from an increase in LC grades rather than a jump in CAO applications.

In 2021, rises seen can once again be attributed to an increase in actual grades, but placement competition has also intensified as students who deferred course offers in 2020 are looking to attend these courses in 2021.

It is thought Brexit has also had an effect on the increase in CAO applications, as students who may have considered going to the UK to study may choose instead to stay in Ireland, thanks to an increase in living and education costs.


Round-one offers were made available on the CAO website at 2pm on 7 September. The acceptance deadline for round one offers is Monday 13 September by 3pm. Round-two offers will then be made available from 10am on Monday 20 September.

A record number of prospective students applied for 2021 college courses, making the grade inflation implications all the more difficult. According to the CAO’s figures, in 2021 there have been 84,817 applicants (up from 78,168 in 2020). Of these, 48,104 applicants were using LC results.


University College Dublin (UCD) requirements for level 8 agricultural science remain largely unchanged from 2020. Last year, Irish Country Living reported that the points for agricultural science in UCD were 456 – this year the figure is 454.

Veterinary requirements, however, increased from 589 points to 601. Veterinary nursing at UCD increased dramatically, from 478 points in 2020 to 521 for this year.

As was noted in last year’s article; animal science or animal science and equine studies (often used as a precursor to gain entry to veterinary) is accessed through general entry to agricultural science in UCD.

Meanwhile, ag science in University College Cork (UCC) increased by 23 points in 2020 and has once again increased, from 496 points to 506.

The agriculture course at Dundalk Institute of Technology increased significantly, from 310 points in 2020 to 342 this time round.

Don’t panic

CAO communications officer Eileen Keleghan has asked prospective students to carefully consider their first round offers.

“One of the common queries that we receive at the offers stage is around order of preference. Applicants who receive a lower-preference offer can accept this offer and it will not prevent them from receiving an offer of a course higher up on their courses list in a later round should a place become available and they are deemed eligible," she commented.

“Those who have received an offer in this round should also consider the current offer carefully as it may be the only one they will receive.”