Colleges and student leaders call on Norma Foley to bring forward date of Leaving Cert results this year

Education Minister Norma Foley. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Katherine Donnelly

Third-level colleges and student leaders are piling on pressure for the date of the Leaving Cert results to be brought forward.

For the fourth consecutive year, early September is slated for the release of student grades – up to three weeks later than the traditional date.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have described it as “unacceptable”.

They say the impact of delayed results and late college entry on students, including increased risk of drop-out, “can no longer continue”.

They are calling on Education Minister Norma Foley to intervene immediately and ensure the results are issued in line with the pre-Covid timeline.

University of Limerick provost and deputy president Shane Kilcommins, who is chair of the IUA registrars group, said: “The current situation is untenable. It is time for the minister to take immediate action.”

Late results delay the start of the college year for first years, shorten their first semester and disrupt the settling-in process.

They are also last in line for accommodation, while Irish students hoping to study abroad may not get an offer because they do not have their results in time.

The IUA, THEA and USI issued their joint call after a recent meeting with Department of Education officials confirmed that 2023 results may not be released until September.

The results have been late since the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020. The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has faced increasing difficulties recruiting examiners to mark papers, but Covid has also left a legacy.

The three organisations say: “When the rest of society has now returned to normal following the pandemic, it is simply unacceptable that Leaving Certificate students are still suffering the after-effects.”

They point to additional stresses for new entrants seeking to find accommodation at very short notice in a tight market.

They also want to ease the pressures associated with a compressed academic year curtailing induction activities and leading to reduced contact time in the critical first year of study.

As well as the impact on Irish students wishing to study abroad, late results would reduce options for international students, including those from Northern Ireland, to study in Ireland, the joint statement said.

They say that colleges are experiencing increased retention problems, which can be directly traced to late entry into higher education, the squeezing of the first-year experience and the inability to ease transition through appropriate induction and orientation activities.

“As a consequence, what may be viewed as administrative difficulties are manifesting themselves as critical negative experiences for the students affected. This can no longer continue,” they said.

Exceptional Leaving Cert arrangements in 2020 and 2021, involving the use of grades based on teachers’ marks, initially delayed results.

That continued into 2022 because of a commitment to maintain the grade inflation associated with teacher-based grades, which required post-marking adjustment.

A promise of no “cliff edge” drop from Covid-era grade inflation in 2023 will also require time for adjustment.

A second sitting of the exams, introduced in 2019 but since extended to more categories of students, is also a factor.