Engineers Ireland has expressed concern at the continuing decline in the number of students undertaking higher level mathematics at Leaving Certificate. 

Statistics published today by the State Examinations Commission show that 20,516 Leaving Certificate students were awarded grades for the higher level maths paper today, representing a 4% decrease when compared to 2022. Although participation in the subject at higher level has increased over the past five years – up 13% when compared to 2019 – participation in the subject has fallen for the second year in a row. 

The representative body for engineers, whose membership represents the full spectrum of the engineering profession, also raised concern at the number of students undertaking higher level subjects in other key STEM subject areas, including applied maths (-16%), physics (-5%) and chemistry (-5%). 

Commenting on today’s Leaving Cert results, Damien Owens, Director General of Engineers Ireland, said: “Maths and science knowledge are valuable aptitudes for future engineers. A proficiency and understanding of STEM by Ireland’s future leaders is also vital to ensure that our country can continue to develop the critical infrastructure that it needs, while also having the ability to address global challenges such as climate change and take advantage of new technological advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalisation. 

“Engineers Ireland’s latest report, ‘Engineering 2023: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’, previously highlighted constraints within the engineering sector, with 72% of employers concerned that the shortage of engineers with the correct skills is a significant barrier to business growth. To support future growth within the sector and to meet government ambitions, we must continue to work in collaboration with industry and academia to support students to equip themselves with an adequate knowledge of STEM so they can pursue a future career in the sector.” 

Today’s results, however, also indicated some positive change, with a 44% increase in the numbers of students undertaking computer science at higher level. The number of students who sat the technology paper at this level also increased by 6%. 

A five-year analysis of Leaving Certificate sittings at higher level has also indicated some positive change, with significant increases in the numbers of students sitting the higher level paper in technology (+26%), construction studies (+16%), engineering (+18%), design and communications (+15%). 

Mr Owens added: “We are seeing some positive indicators of change when we reflect on five-year trends. This positive engagement and support for construction studies, engineering, design and communication topics, indicates increasing interest in subject areas that could lead to students playing a key role in infrastructure delivery in the future."

Looking ahead to CAO first round offers on 30 August, Mr Owens encouraged those who will receive a CAO offer of an engineering course to accept their offer and pursue a career in engineering: “Students who accept an offer of an engineering course at third level can look forward to gaining internationally recognised qualifications and unlimited career opportunities. Our future engineering graduates will be central to the successful delivery of ambitious infrastructural and technological initiatives and will be uniquely placed to support our climate goals and ambitions. 

Mr Owens added: “All routes and pathways to a career in engineering should be considered by students receiving their Leaving Certificate results today. Apprenticeship opportunities also provide a unique opportunity to learn and develop within the engineering sector and provide students with excellent opportunities and career progression.” 



STEM subjects

The number of Leaving Certificate candidates awarded grades for the higher-level paper in each of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects is shown in the table. One, three and 5 year comparisons can be viewed in the green boxes.