Irish student told UK university place no longer guaranteed over delayed Leaving Cert results

James O’Donoghue, who applied to study medicine, is one of 1,500 Irish students to receive conditional offers at UK colleges

James O'Donoghue (18), Clounreask, Askeaton, Co Limerick, who is awaiting his Leaving Certificate results and has applied to study medicine. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

A Leaving Cert student fears he will lose his offer of a place studying medicine at a UK university due in part to the late release of exam results this year.

James O’Donoghue from Askeaton, Co Limerick, received a conditional offer to study medicine next month at University of Bristol earlier this year.

While Leaving Cert results are due to be released on September 2nd — later than the traditional mid-August release date — the university recently informed him that it needs his results by August 31st in order to secure his place.

The University of Bristol said in an email last week: “We are aware of the delay in the release of Leaving Certificate results but regret that we can currently only guarantee places to applicants who meet our entry requirements by our deadline of 31 August 2022.”

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Mr O’Donoghue is one of about 1,500 students with addresses in the Republic who have received conditional offers based on their Leaving Cert exam results.

UCAS, which oversees applications to UK colleges, said earlier this year that it had “advised” colleges that the deadline for Leaving Cert applicants was being extended to September 7th.

“We advise the universities and colleges to work to this later date so they are able to meet the needs of Irish students whose results will be sent on 2 September,” it said.

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On making further inquiries to the University of Bristol, Mr O’Donoghue was told that applicants with delayed results will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

“We will ... consider each [delayed] application on an individual basis, and consider whether we are able to confirm each applicant’s place either for this year, and if not what else we may be able to offer,” the university added.

Mr O’Donoghue, 19, said he is now fearful of losing his place this year and has been told by Irish authorities that it is not possible to get his exam results any earlier than September 2nd.

“Considering the work I have put in over the past few years, I feel it is very unfair ... University of Bristol offered me a place conditionally, but now that has been taken away on a technicality, which I feel is very unjust,” he said.

“Given this is not the first year with delayed results I think it unacceptable of the Department of Education not to have matters such as this ironed out.”

He said one of the main reasons he has his heart set on studying in the UK is access to affordable, on-campus accommodation.

“First year students are guaranteed a room and it is far cheaper than in Ireland,” he said.

As part of the application process, Mr O’Donghue sat an admissions exam — the equivalent of the Hpat or Health Professions Admission Test — was later invited to an interview and received a conditional offer on the basis of achieving three H1s and three H2s.

“I feel this is a really tough blow and feel very stressed about it,” he said. “For sixth year I moved to a different school, which offers classes and study from 9am to 9pm, all with the goal of studying medicine ... I’d like to work in a job with helps people ... I just hope that, somehow, this can be resolved,” he said.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent