Students affected by errors in the awarding of Leaving Cert grades will not find out until the end of next week whether they will be able to take up higher-preference college courses on foot of any upgrades, according to well-placed sources.
Minister for Education Norma Foley has estimated that about 6,500 students were awarded grades which were lower than they should have received due to coding errors in the calculated grades process.
The majority of students will be moved up a single grade, which at higher level is the equivalent of about 10 CAO points.
Ms Foley said in the Dáil on Thursday that a similar number of students may have been awarded higher grades in error. These students will not be downgraded.
A US firm – ETS Educational Testing Service – has been hired to review aspects of the coding.
A spokesman said when this work is completed, the Department of Education will commence work to finalise students’ results and they will be issued to students “as soon as possible thereafter”.
Sources said these results are likely to be issued shortly and revised CAO results may be offered, where applicable, towards the end of next week.
The Department of Higher Education, headed by Simon Harris, has been in talks with the third level sector over funding up to 1,000 additional higher education places.
While officials are hopeful that students who qualify for higher-preference courses will be able to take up their courses this year, they have acknowledged it may not be possible for some high-demand courses such as medicine and dentistry.
Meanwhile Ms Foley's department has defended its decision to hire Canadian firm Polymetrika, which she said was responsible for the coding error which resulted in wrong grades being issued.
It has been paid a total of €163,000 by the Department of Education without a tendering process.
The department said a full procurement process did not take place on the basis that there was “insufficient time” to do so.
The registered address for Polymetrika International Inc – 150 Hinchey Avenue – is a residential home in Ottawa, according to company records.
It is unclear how many employees the firm has, though only two were listed on the LinkedIn social media platform earlier this week: chief executive Dr Fernando Cartwright and chief operations officer Holly Cartwright.
In a statement, a department spokesman said Polymetrika has recognised expertise in what is a “highly technical and specialised field”.
It said its principal, Mr Cartwright, is a former senior researcher at the Canadian Council for Learning and also worked with Statistics Canada.
The spokesman said Mr Cartwright has worked in Ireland in the past and has an established relationship both with the Educational Research Centre and the Department of Education and Skills, and has an understanding of the Irish education system.