Universities told to find spaces for 35 students without college places

Some students told there were no college places this year after they secured places following Leaving Cert upgrades

The number of upgraded college offers is up by almost 140%  this year due to the large volume of students appealing their results. Photograph: Getty Images

The number of upgraded college offers is up by almost 140% this year due to the large volume of students appealing their results. Photograph: Getty Images


Government Ministers have intervened to pressurise universities into providing college places for dozens of students who were told in recent days that they could not take up their places until next year.

Thirty-five students were told last Thursday there was no college place for them in the current year after they secured places following rechecks and upgrades of their Leaving Cert exam papers, The Irish Times understands. Instead they were told they could take up their place in the 2020/21 academic year.

This is despite a High Court ruling last year in favour of Wexford student Rebecca Carter, who argued that she should be allowed to take up her veterinary science course after securing enough points on appeal.

The court ruled at the time that the system was not fit for purpose, and that students should be able to access a course for which they qualified. Universities argued that they were unable to accommodate the students for a range of reasons such as limited capacity, insurance restrictions or quotas placed on course numbers by health authorities.

Among the courses where students were told last week they was no spare capacity include dentistry, physiotherapy and psychology.

However, it is understood that behind-the-scenes efforts involving Ministers over the weekend led to colleges agreeing to find places for many of the students in the current year.

Some students, however, were on Sunday night still facing the prospect of having to take up their higher preference next year.


In a statement the CAO confirmed that it issued 35 “deferred offers” to students on Thursday following successfully appealing their Leaving Cert grades.

In all 590 students secured higher preference course offers after being upgraded last week.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she welcomed the “intensive work” by the universities and their admissions offices to accommodate students over the weekend, enabling them to access higher preference CAO offers this academic year.

“I am very aware students worked incredibly hard for their exam results, and I do not want them penalised in any way through no fault of their own,” she said.

“The universities have been working hard over the weekend to accommodate students who qualify for their higher options. The number of deferrals sought by the universities has decreased substantially over the weekend, and I trust that further offers will be made to students for their preferred options over the coming days.”

The number of upgraded offers is up by almost 140 per cent this year due to the large volume of students appealing their results.

Universities sources say they had been working hard to ensure the vast majority were able to take up their course this year, with the number of “deferred offers” down almost 70 per cent this year as a result.

Updated offers

It is understood that all students who received deferred offers for courses in UCD, UCC, UL on Thursday have since received updated offers over the weekend allowing them to take up their places this year. Some other universities were still seeking to provide places in the current year to students.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor called for a review of the process of awarding deferred places on the basis that no student should have to wait a year after qualifying for a course.

She said wanted to engage with education stakeholders to see what reforms are needed to avoid the situation arising again.