University deferrals to be limited amid fears of Covid-19 gap years

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

Universities around the country are set to limit the number of students permitted to defer their place this year amid concerns that a large number may opt to do so due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin (UCD) are among the colleges which may introduce restrictions this academic year, according to the Irish Times.

The majority of third-level teaching this year is set to take place remotely through online delivery, as social distancing restrictions have limited the ability of colleges to accommodate students on their campuses.

UCD has said it will place a five per cent limit on the number of students in a class who can defer their place for the year, while TCD has also said it will limit deferrals to ensure there are sufficient places for applicants in 2021.

An unpublished Higher Education Authority report drawn up earlier this year warned that a significant number of third-level students were likely to defer this year as a result of the pandemic.

Points surge

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It comes as points for most college courses increased significantly compared to last year as thousands of students received a round one CAO offer yesterday.

Grade inflation was seen as a result of the adoption of a calculated grading system which saw the Leaving Cert class of 2020 achieve record results.

The points jump came despite Government effort to alleviate grade inflation by introducing thousands of extra third-level places this year.

Over half of those who applied for a level eight course through the CAO system were offered their first preference this year, while 90 per cent of those who applied for level six and seven courses were offered their first choice.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson for Further and Higher Education said yesterday that the Government failed in its management of third-level offers and did not ensure “a level playing field” for students.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris defended the Government's approach: “I don’t want to see anybody disadvantaged, but it’s not lost on me that we’re now actually having a conversation where we’ve put measures in place to protect those who are usually the most disadvantaged.

“As a result perhaps we’re getting asked questions about fee-paying schools that perhaps wouldn’t normally be asked during a Leaving Cert year. So, it’s my view that this system is as fair and robust as it can be.”

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals has advised any student in need of advice over the coming days to contact the Department of Education's helpline on 1800 265 165.

CAO offers must be accepted by 3pm on Wednesday, September 16th.

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