Almost 73,000 applications for third-level courses were received by the Central Applications Office (CAO) by its 1 February closing date, a figure that is on a par with last year's data.

The number of students applying to study nursing or midwifery has declined this year by 8%, while numbers wishing to train as second-level teachers has risen by 10%.

Architecture and construction continues to rise in popularity, with an 8% increase in those choosing degree courses in these areas as their first preference.

There has been a similar increase in those intending to complete law degrees.

However, there has been a 5% decline in numbers putting an arts course as their first choice level 8 course.

The number of students indicating that they wish to be considered for a special scheme targeting students with disabilities (DARE) has increased by 4% to a total of 7,252.

The number of mature student applicants (over 23 years of age) has decreased by 7% to 7,273.

There has been a 6% decline in applications from UK students, but this fall is from an already low base.

Overall, 715 UK students have applied to study in the coming academic year compared to 762 last year.

The number of applications from Northern Ireland has increased by 48 or 4% on last year, from 1,269 to 1,317.

This latest data published by the CAO is preliminary. It will change when applicants begin to avail of the 'change of mind' facility, which opens on 5 May.

The CAO has reminded students that it accepts late applications up until 1 May.