Monday 20 May 2019

Exams body said student's appeal case 'self-serving'

Rebecca Carter won her case against the SEC in the High Court. Photo: Damien Eagers
Rebecca Carter won her case against the SEC in the High Court. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The case brought by Leaving Cert student Rebecca Carter was described as "self-serving" by the State Examinations Commission as it fought her bid to secure a college place.

New details have emerged of the lengths the State went to in an effort to stop Ms Carter winning her High Court case.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys has issued his full judgment which shows the SEC argued the Wexford student was not unfairly affected by their appeals system.

Ms Carter (19), of Ardcolm Drive, Rectory Hall, Castlebridge, Co Wexford, had sued the SEC, challenging its decision not to recheck her Leaving Cert points in time to allow her to obtain a place in veterinary medicine in UCD.

The normal appeals process operated by the SEC would not have allowed her score to be re-evaluated before the university's cut-off point for starting the course.

Mr Justice Humphreys said that had Ms Carter's points been correctly added up, she would easily have qualified for a place on the UCD course.

He noted that the SEC submitted that "the only potential basis for any challenge to the procedures is based in irrationality" but "this simply ignores vast swathes of modern administrative law".

He also said an argument that Ms Carter was not prejudiced by the appeals system "completely flat-lines".

"First of all, she irrecoverably missed out on the first complete month of the course, and secondly, but for the court order she would have received a deferred offer and missed out on a year of study of veterinary medicine.

"That is independently of the stress and difficulty caused to her by the flawed appeal system to which she has deposed on affidavit," the judge wrote.

He drew on constitutional, European and international law to conclude that Ms Carter had a right of access to higher education.

Based on the judgment, Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne told the Irish Independent last night that the SEC's approach was "despicable". "They need to reflect very, very carefully on what the judge said and implement all his recommendations for next year."

Mr Justice Humphreys said an appeals system that did not allow applicants to take up their courses until a month and a half after the start of the academic year was "manifestly not fit for purpose".

The judge said that in order to avoid a repeat of similar problems, an intensified process of co-ordination was required.

He added that people should not think that the case had an entirely "Hollywood ending" because Ms Carter lost the initial crucial first few weeks of the course.

She has now started her studies in UCD.

Irish Independent

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