Tuesday 18 December 2018

'It's an absolute and utter disgrace' - Student denied place in veterinary medicine at UCD over Leaving Cert mark error

Rebecca Carter from Castlebridge
Rebecca Carter from Castlebridge

Aodhan O Faolain & Ray Managh

An 18-year-old student whose Leaving Cert marks were wrongly totted up by an examiner says the error which has denied her a place in veterinary medicine at UCD is an "absolute and utter disgrace."

Rebecca Carter has brought High Court proceedings against the State Examination Commission (SEC) over its decision not to re-check her results before mid-October, effectively costing her a place at UCD which decides its student allocation by the end of September.

Rebecca, of Ardcolm Drive, Rectory Hall, Castlebridge, Wexford, also seeks an injunction against UCD restraining the college from refusing her a place on the course.

Both the SEC and UCD have opposed the action, which opened before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys on Tuesday, and denies any wrongdoing in the matter.

Previously the court heard that UCD had agreed not to allocate Rebecca’s potential placing until September 30 allowing the court to deal with her judicial review of decisions to date relating to her exam results.

Opening the case on Tuesday Micheal P O’Higgins SC, with Brendan Hennesy Bl instructed by solicitor Eileen McCabe for Ms Carter, said Rebecca repeated her leaving certificate exams in May 2018 and was just six points short of the required number in the first round of offers for veterinary medicine in UCD.

She was one point short in the second round. She sought a recheck of her business exam script, which revealed that the examiner had wrongly totted up the marks.

Had the error not occurred Rebecca’s final total points would have given her a higher grade in her business paper and she would have surpassed the points required for veterinary medicine.

When the error was uncovered the Commission was contacted and asked to have matters put right so she could take up her place.

She had then been told the Commission could not correct the error until mid-October. If the mistake was not corrected by the start of October she would have to wait until 2019 to commence her chosen course.

Counsel said after the obvious error was discovered it was hoped that "common sense would prevail" and that "bureaucratic tape would be cut". 

Counsel said this was not the case and the SEC and UCD appeared to be blaming each other over the matter, leaving Ms Carter falling between two stools.

Mr O'Higgins said it also appeared that the SEC's policy is that if the totting up error had appeared on the front cover of the exam script, it could have been rectified outside the normal appeals process.

However this was not possible because the adding up error was inside the paper.

The SEC's decision, counsel said, is improper and irrational and should be quashed by the court.

Counsel said that Ms Carter had worked extremely hard to get into veterinary medicine, and had attended at UCD with first-year veterinary students.

She said that she has been left without a place on this years course and her future career has been put on hold because of "somebody else's mistake".

"It is an absolute and utter disgrace that this error has denied me a place in veterinary medicine," she stated in a court document.

 The State Examination Commission, represented by Conor Power SC and Aoife Carroll Bl denies that it has acted improperly and denies that it has acted irrationally in the matter.

It says that any alleged error can only be corrected through the formal appeals process, and the error cannot be dealt with through the rectification process.

The SEC also denies that it has failed to have sufficient regard for Ms Carter's rights and adds that the system it operates to deal with errors such as that alleged by her protects the interests of all examination candidates.

Her appeal it says will be fully considered.

The case continues on Wednesday.

In adjourning the matter the judge said he hoped to be in a position to rule on the application following the conclusion of submissions tomorrow.

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