Figures released by the Central Applications Office show no increase in numbers applying for third-level courses this year compared to last.

More than 71,000 people have made initial applications for college places for 2011 - a very slight decrease on last year's numbers.

It is a small piece of good news for this year's college hopefuls, after several years of rising applications and record application levels last year.

Students will be hoping that it means no big increase in points either.

The last two years have seen 6% rises in application levels.

There were fears that diminishing job opportunities could fuel further rises this year, but that has not materialised.

The number of mature students applying is slightly down, by almost 3%.

In keeping with recent trends, this latest CAO data shows another marked decline in interest in construction-related courses.

There is a commensurate rise in interest in agriculture and horticulture-related disciplines.

The numbers applying to science related courses is up, while interest in business courses and law has declined again as have applications to some healthcare courses.