Getting results from the Leaving Cert
Sir, – There has been much media discussion in recent days that the Leaving Certificate points for various third-level courses is set to rise. The assumption is that this will make things more difficult in general for school leavers to progress to third level. While this might seem obvious, a little reflection shows that it is necessarily (or even probably) true.
The reason is that it all depends on why exactly the points required might go up. The reason we have this rationing system is that demand exceeds supply. The points one gets in the Leaving are rather like a currency. The more you have, the more you can “buy” ie the better choice you have. So why might the points required go up? One possibility is that fewer Irish students are applying to the UK because of the higher tuition fees there.
This would push up demand here and tighten the rationing so that means that yes it will be tougher to get in here. Demographic factors may also be playing a similar role.
But the consensus seems to be that the increase in the points required is largely due to the introduction of bonus points for higher maths.
If you think about it, this factor will not in general make it harder for students to get into university. Why? Because if the number of places available and the number of students applying is unchanged the degree of rationing is unchanged: all it essentially does is increase the amount of the “currency” in circulation. To see this, imagine the CAO system was changed so that the points for everything in the Leaving was exactly doubled. The points limits would double as a result and there would be no change at all: whereas before you might need 450 points, now you need 900 but students who got 460 would now be getting 920, etc.
In this case, there is a twist as the introduction of bonus points favours those who do well at maths: they get the extra “currency” so things will be better for them and hence more difficult for others. But on average there is no change at all. Students getting their results this week have no reason to panic. – Is mise,