Analysis of Irish third-level college applications data

Authors


Isobel Claire Gormley, Department of Statistics, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.
E-mail: gormleyi@tcd.ie

Abstract

Summary.  The Irish college admissions system involves prospective students listing up to 10 courses in order of preference on their application. Places in third-level educational institutions are subsequently offered to the applicants on the basis of both their preferences and their final second-level examination results. The college applications system is a large area of public debate in Ireland. Detractors suggest that the process creates artificial demand for ‘high profile’ courses, causing applicants to ignore their vocational callings. Supporters argue that the system is impartial and transparent. The Irish college degree applications data from the year 2000 are analysed by using mixture models based on ranked data models to investigate the types of application behaviour that are exhibited by college applicants. The results of this analysis show that applicants form groups according to both the discipline and the geographical location of their course choices. In addition, there is evidence of the suggested ‘points race’ for high profile courses. Finally, gender emerges as an influential factor when studying course choice behaviour.

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