The CAO needs no introduction to the present generation of school-leavers or their parents. Since 1976 it has enabled our institutions of third-level learning to reconcile annually the choices of the hopefuls — more than 60,000 last year — seeking to embark on a chosen career path.
This is how Fennelly J began his judgment for the Supreme Court in Central Applications Office v Minister for Community Rural and Galeltacht Affairs  IESC 32 (13 May 2010). The Court granted a declaration that respondent Minister did not have the power under the Official Languages Act, 2003 (also here) to designate the applicant as a public body subject to obligations imposed by the Act concerning the conduct of its affairs in both official languages. The CAO today publishes its second round of offers of third level places for the forthcoming academic year, and in the inauspicious technical landscape of a Supreme Court appeal, Fennelly J provided an excellent primer on the operations of the Central Applications Office (the CAO; logo, above left):
is a company limited by guarantee and is a non-profit body. It was formed in 1976 and is based in Galway. … The State has no responsibility for its operation. The members of the CAO are the third-level institutions which it serves. Prior to the establishment of the CAO in 1976, there was no centralised system for processing applications from students seeking admission to third level. … The universities … decided to form a single body to process applications. The CAO now has 44 participant Higher Education Institutions …
The process by which the CAO matches applications (from students) and offers (from institutions) is as follows. Each student makes a single application to the CAO early in the year. The student specifies, in order of preference, the preferred colleges and courses of study. Each institution decides on the number of places it will offer in each category and informs the CAO. The CAO relates the student’s application with [that student’s] Leaving Certificate results. It then makes an offer to the student on a form described as “offer notice” which specifies the course being offered and the institution offering it. It invites the student to return a part of the form specifying acceptance. …
This is a far more elegant explanation than the one I essayed in an earlier post, in which I went on to explain that grades of the last-admitted candidate to a course can be regarded as the cut-off for qualification for entry to that course, and that these grades can be expressed as a function of points in a range from 0 to 600. In that earlier post, I set out the points levels for entry into various law courses on the basis of the CAO’s first round of offers.
Each year, not all of the CAO’s offers are accepted, with the result that some courses have vacancies. The third level institutions notify the CAO of the vacancies, and it issues a further round of offers. Where the points of the last-admitted candidate on this round are lower than those of the last-admitted candidate in the first round, the CAO also publishes the revised points cut-off. This year, the second round of offers of places was made today, and the points requirements for some law courses were revised accordingly. (Of course, some of these offers will not be accepted, and the third level institutions and the CAO will continue to make further offers as necessary to fill their courses).
In the table below (after the jump), I set out the final points requirements for law degrees in the various third level institutions. The first number, in bold font, is the final points requirement. Where the points were revised in round 2, the points for round 1 are then set out in regular font, prefaced by “R1:”. Finally, for the sake of completeness, where the course was offered last year, the final points for 2009 are set out in italics in parentheses. (more…)