Northern Ireland students to get revised results on Friday

Universities call for ‘urgent clarity’ around impact of grading controversy on admissions

A and AS-level students in Northern Ireland will receive their revised grades on Friday, the North's exam board, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment , has announced.

The North's Minister for Education Peter Weir, was forced to abandon the previous system for awarding grades after widespread controversy over a statistical "anomaly" that downgraded approximately 37 per cent of marks.

Students who received an exam mark lower than that predicted by their teachers will have that grade reinstated.

Mr Weir also pre-empted a similar controversy over GCSE results, which are due to be released on Thursday, by announcing earlier this week that they will be based only on teachers’ predicted grades.

Meanwhile universities have called for “urgent clarity” over the impact of the exam controversy on this year’s admissions process.

Student places

Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University gave evidence to the Stormont economy committee on Wednesday on the impact of the revised grades on the North's universities.

The registrar and chief operating officer at Queen's, Joanne Clague, said the university had already confirmed 1,000 more student places than in 2019, and the revised grades could give as many as 1,000 more the marks necessary for entry.

“We won’t be able to meet the demand for students that might be coming through from centre-assessed grades, and any uplifting grades as a result of that, without additional funded places,” she said.

Without this, she said, “due to capacity restrictions and funding restrictions, if more funded places are not made available, it may be subsequently necessary to offer guaranteed deferred entry for some students for 2021.

“That would absolutely not be our preference but that may be the decision we find ourselves in.”

Paul Bartholomew, the vice-chancellor of Ulster University – which is based on four sites across Northern Ireland – said he envisaged "a large degree of asymmetry between where students wish to go and perhaps where they even feel they have a right to go, and where the vacancies remain".

Extra funding

The economy minister, Diane Dodds, is to put forward proposals regarding additional funding and places at a meeting of the North's Executive on Thursday.

The number of places allocated to Northern Ireland and EU students at the North’s universities are capped because their fees are part-funded by the department.

A department spokesperson said that “until the local universities have received access to the full range of revised grades for all applicant students, they will not be able to confirm places for students or otherwise.

“As such, until this process has been completed, there is no way of assessing the number of any additional places there may be.

“The economy minister has stated that she will be working with Executive colleagues to ensure that any additional places that may be required, and extra resources, are put in place to support universities, and will bring forward proposals to the Executive tomorrow.”

Additional reporting, PA

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

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