Universities call for Leaving Cert results to be given in June

Issuing results in August ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and limits students’ options

The Irish Universities Association – which represents eight of the largest universities – is also calling for an immediate end to ‘distorting’ grade inflation and a return to normal grades patterns. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Irish Universities Association – which represents eight of the largest universities – is also calling for an immediate end to ‘distorting’ grade inflation and a return to normal grades patterns. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Universities say timelines for the release of Leaving Cert results are “no longer fit for purpose” and want students to be issued their grades at the end of June, followed by college offers in July.

The Irish Universities Association – which represents eight of the largest universities – is also calling for an immediate end to “distorting” grade inflation and a return to normal grade patterns.

The association’s director general Jim Miley made the points in a submission ahead of an Oireachtas education committee meeting on Tuesday which is due to debate Leaving Cert reform.

On the issue of the CAO system which has come in for criticism recently, Mr Miley said it was designed on the basis of stable grades but recent grade inflation had “destabilised” results trends.

In 2019, he said, just over 200 students achieved a maximum score of six H1 grades. This year, this had grown to 1,342, an increase of more than 600 per cent.

“This has distorted the entry threshold to third level with a particular inequity to applicants presenting results from earlier years,” he said.

Universities are proposing that the system reverts immediately to a stable grade distribution model, in line with pre-Covid trends.

This would ensure Leaving Cert results “continue to serve as the mainstream selection mechanism for entry into Irish higher education”.

In relation to the timing of results, he said the traditional release of grades in mid-August was posing problems for students and the wider system.

Students and their families have a very short timeframe to find student accommodation, he said, while it is also out of line with European countries such as the UK who issued results earlier.

For example, a student who has applied for a course in both an Irish university and in the UK may feel compelled to accept the latter for fear of not getting a place in the State.

Mr Miley said universities are now firmly of the view that these timelines are no longer fit for purpose.

“We propose that students should be in possession of their Leaving Cert results no later than the end of June of any given year. This would allow the CAO to process these results and for offers and acceptances to higher education to be completed before the end of July,” he said.

“The delivery of results within this revised timeline is entirely feasible with less emphasis on the final examination, and a greater emphasis on a range of continuous assessment options.

“The IUA proposes that immediate steps are taken to introduce this revised timeline in 2022.”

In a submission to the committee, Mr Miley said that while the Leaving Cert has many positive attributes, there was a pressing need for reform.

He said the “heavy-weighting” of the final written exams is “far too great” and discriminates against some students with additional needs.

Instead, the association wants “authentic assessment” across all subjects over a three-year period that “genuinely reflects” the learning and thinking of the student.