Hundreds of students to be affected by Leaving Cert appeals ruling

Rebecca Carter celebrates official upgrade in exam results after winning legal case

Rebecca Carter with her parents, Annemaire and  Niall, all from  Castlebridge in Co Wexford, leaving the High Court in Dublin this week. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Rebecca Carter with her parents, Annemaire and Niall, all from Castlebridge in Co Wexford, leaving the High Court in Dublin this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


Hundreds of students every year are being forced to wait a year before taking up their course due to delays in correcting Leaving Cert appeals.

This week’s High Court ruling in favour of Wexford student Rebecca Carter is likely to result in a faster appeals process which is likely to allow these students to take up their courses in future.

Figures seen by The Irish Times indicate that several hundred students annually end up securing higher preference college places on foot of appealing their grades about six weeks into the academic year.

About half of these students end up deferring their places for various reasons, such as being advised by colleges to wait for a year for academic reasons or because courses are already running at capacity.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has pledged to help speed up the appeals process for Leaving Cert exam students to ensure students do not lose out on potential college places.

Mr Bruton has also signalled that colleges should consider extending their cut-off dates for accepting students to ensure no candidates are disadvantaged.

This follows the High Court’s description of the appeals process as “manifestly unfit for purpose”. This is because the results of exam marks appeals are not released until mid-October, up to six weeks after the college year starts.

Deadline for admissions

Ms Carter argued in court that delay meant she would not be in a position to secure a place in UCD’s veterinary medicine course which had a September 30th deadline for admissions.

Ms Carter was celebrating with her family on Friday after the State Examinations Commission confirmed the upgrade of her business paper to a H1, meaning she exceeded the points requirement for veterinary medicine. She is set to start her new course in UCD on Monday morning.

“I was in tears when I received my original results… but this weekend we’ve a big celebration at home with family and friends,” she said.

Ms Carter’s solicitor, Eileen McCabe, said it was important that the system was reformed to ensure other students do not lose out.

“It is clear that this ‘appeal process’ affects hundreds of students every year,” she said.

“The result of it is that many students who are eventually awarded the points they earned in their exams are told they have to wait a further year before they can start their course.

“Others who do manage to get a place on a course will join it almost six weeks after it started. That is clearly unfair.”

The board of the State Examinations Commission was meeting on Friday evening to discuss the implications and ramifications of the ruling.

‘An exceptional basis’

UCD, meanwhile, is set to hold a special meeting next Thursday to consider amending its admissions approach on “an exceptional basis” for the current year.

This would ensure that any student who in a similar position to Ms Carter is also able to take up their college place this year.

However, the university is strongly of the belief that it is not in the best interests of students to join classes after the new academic year has begun. UCD’s academic year for most classes began on September 10th.

It says experience shows that their academic performance, along with health and welfare, tends to suffer as they try to catch up on course work and acclimatise to university life.