Universities want Leaving Cert moved to May to ease pressure on students

Results delay risks chaos finding accommodation or studying abroad, students warn

Universities want Leaving Cert exams to be shifted to May to reduce stress on students and give families more time to find accommodation when college offers are made.

Their comments follow a report in The Irish Times on Monday that Leaving Cert results and college offers may be issued later than the traditional mid-August date.

Students and colleges fear that late results could delay the start of the academic year for thousands of first-year students and results in a last-minute scramble for accommodation.

In a letter to the Minister for Education Norma Foley, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) – which represents eight universities – warned that late results would have a "hugely disruptive" effect on Leaving Cert students' further study and career options.

Jim Miley, the IUA's director general, said later than normal results last year resulted in first year students being admitted to third level about three weeks late.

“This meant that the orientation process for first-year students was negatively impacted due to capacity constraints, as all other student cohorts had already returned to college by that time,” he wrote.

“It also resulted in first year students facing an even greater challenge in finding accommodation in an already stressed environment.”

Planning

Mr Miley asked that date be finalised “immediately” to facilitate more orderly planning.

“Even in a ‘normal’ year, results in mid-August are too late. To achieve this, we believe that the final examinations should be brought forward by at least a month, with a similar advance in the results timetable.

The Technological Higher Education Association, which represents technological universities, also warned that delayed entry to higher education would present "quality assurance" issues in relation to a shorter semester for first years, exam pressures, and late publication of timetables for all students.

“Late induction for the first year cohort limits the opportunities for peer interaction with existing students who have returned to class and there is limited availability for academic staff to engage due to teaching commitments,” it said.

“The consequences are not only at an academic management level but for students anticipating the uptake of an offer, early planning in respect of student accommodation remains crucial. Similar consideration attaches to students contemplating a move across international boundaries.”

Education authorities recently told higher education representatives that there are logistical challenges in finalising a date for issuing this year’s results.

These include a deferred sitting of the Leaving Cert exams for Covid-19 reasons and the Government’s decision that the outcomes of this year’s Leaving Cert will on aggregate be “no lower” than last year’s.

Clarity

The Irish Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) also called for clarity on the results date to given as soon as possible.

ISSU president Emer Neville said it was vital not just for students' mental health, but also for accommodation deposits and those planning to attend college abroad.

“The ISSU would urge the department to give clarity to these students as soon as possible to mitigate these issues, and also to begin work with international counterparts to ensure students can continue to study abroad should there be delays,” she said.

Ms Neville said the union recognised the importance of the second sitting of exams, which were put in place for students who may fall ill or suffer a bereavement during or before their exams.

“It is vital that the second sitting of exams goes ahead and that they are respected as an important component for the 2022 state exams, they are there for fairness.”

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