University of Ulster offered course places 'in error'17/08/2012 - 11:38:19
Hundreds of students who were told they had secured a place at Northern Ireland’s University of Ulster have now been told the offers were made in error.
The offers of a place at its faculty of computing and engineering were issued by mistake and have now been withdrawn, the university said.
The plans of at least 370 students have been hit by the gaffe, with some teenagers complaining that they turned down other opportunities, believing they were on their way to the University of Ulster.
A handful of parents called a radio phone-in show to complain about how their children were treated. The dean of the faculty, Professor Richard Millar, then appeared on air to apologise and to reveal that the mistake related to hundreds of applicants.
It is believed that an email issued to those who secured a place was accidentally sent to all those who applied, he said.
“I can only apologise for that. What we have done is we have contacted everyone by email so that they have had as quick a response to this as possible,” he said.
“As that email had indicated, the actual status of those students is that we have not yet taken a decision on them. As we take a decision on those students, they will be contacted personally.”
The process is complicated by the need to identify if some of the applicants applied to the university as an insurance option but now plan to go elsewhere, Prof Millar told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.
Students should use Ucas as the best indication of the status of their application, he said.
“We very much value this, to be able to publicly apologise to those who have been affected and obviously upset by this. And again, to have the opportunity to explain what has happened.”
Northern Ireland Assembly member Sean Rogers said Stormont's Department for Employment and Learning should step in to resolve the issue.
“This is a totally shambolic situation which has left many students and their families upset and uncertain,” said the SDLP representative, the party’s education spokesman.
“Not only have students had the places they were offered withdrawn but they have also missed a day of clearing to attempt to get into other courses.”
The mistake could “have a domino effect on other students hoping to get other university places and could jeopardise the future career prospects of hundreds of young people”.
Mr Rogers said: “This is a stressful enough time for teenagers and their families without these kinds of mess-ups.”
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