Some students may have to defer course to next year, according to Education Minister

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

Updated 08:58

Additional reporting from Vivienne Clarke

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that the maximum number of third level places possible will be made available to students who have been impacted by the errors in the calculated grades system.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, the Minister said that it was a “guesstimate” that the number involved was 1,000 students who had missed the college place of their choice because their grades were mistakenly downgraded.

However, the Minister acknowledged that some may have to defer for a year because it just was not possible to find a place. “I am confident that we will achieve that (find places).”

Ms Foley defended the timeline of the details being revealed. She was first informed last Wednesday afternoon, 23rd September, that there was an error in the system. The exact numbers were not known and her main concern was the students involved.

The Minister said she wanted clarity on what the impact would be before she announced what had happened. She requested her department to get expert international oversight to the process

It comes as up to 1,000 extra college places may be needed for students due to errors in calculated grades issued to thousands of Leaving Cert candidates, according to the Irish Times.

Minister for Education Norma Foley apologised on Wednesday for coding errors which resulted in at least 6,500 students receiving a lower grade than they ought to have received.

She said all students affected will be upgraded by at least a single grade – the equivalent of 10 CAO points at higher level – and every effort will be made to ensure no candidate misses out on a college place which they are entitled to.

However, final confirmation on the total number of students affected will not be known for several days as rechecks continue into errors in the calculated grades system.

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The Irish Times reports that Higher Education Minister Simon Harris told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday night that these figures suggest that anything up to 1,000 extra places could be needed in colleges.

He also told the meeting that the CAO had confirmed that any student impacted would be treated as a successful appeal and that a place would be secured in college if available.

If there was no such place available, Mr Harris said he would put in place all resources necessary to fund extra college places.

Third level colleges are due to meet on Friday to discuss ways of creating additional places.

CAO offers

Some university sources said there was serious doubt over whether additional places could be identified in high-demand courses such as medicine or dentistry, and additional funding will be needed.

Mr Harris said he hoped that the full scale of the issue would be known by next week, at which point students may receive new offers.

Yesterday, the Education Minister said students who are impacted will be contacted by text message in the coming days, directing them to view their new result online.

The Central Application Office (CAO) will receive the updated grades for all affected students, who will then be offered a place in a third-level institute to which they applied if their new results make them eligible.

Ms Foley explained that the error was found as a result of an independent assessment conducted by Polymetrica International, identifying an error in one line of coding out of a total of 50,000 lines.

The coding error is thought to have affected 400,000 exam results, however only 7,200 results were lowered as a result.

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