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CAO points race: tight finish expected as students may face lottery to get onto popular courses

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Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, who is a member of the CAO board, said it was “inevitable” that points would go up for a large proportion of courses. Stock picture

Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, who is a member of the CAO board, said it was “inevitable” that points would go up for a large proportion of courses. Stock picture

Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, who is a member of the CAO board, said it was “inevitable” that points would go up for a large proportion of courses. Stock picture

The Leaving Cert class of 2022 is facing a knife-edge points race finish today with many high-achieving students expected to lose out on their top college choice.

For the third year in a row, the squeeze for CAO places is at unprecedented levels because of Covid-era inflated Leaving Cert grades.

There are concerns some students will have met the points required for a course, but will lose out in a random selection “lottery”. This is where the number of applicants achieving the points cut-off for a course, exceed the supply of places and a computer selects those who will receive an offer

Many other top-performing CAO applicants may only be one point below the cut-off for an offer and will narrowly miss a place.

Earlier this week, University of Galway deputy president and registrar, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, who is a member of the CAO board, said it was “inevitable” that points would go up for a large proportion of courses.

Many of the 46,000 Leaving Cert candidates awaiting their results at 2pm today are also facing uncertainty about whether they will be able to accept an offer they receive.

The accommodation crisis has left students who must leave home to attend college struggling to find somewhere to live, and some fear they may have to defer their place.

It is also the third consecutive year that Leaving Cert result have been delayed into September, which, in turn, has led to a later release of college offers, shortening the term for first years.

The results have been delayed beyond their usual mid-August date because of Covid-related disruption.

But as arrangements start returning to normal, Education Minister Norma Foley is facing a demand from representatives of universities and students to bring forward the results to a date much earlier than mid-August.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have joined forces on the issue.

They all say the traditional release date for results in Ireland is out of line with most of the rest of Europe and is “significantly later”. They say the late release this year has exacerbated the problems students are already facing relating to accommodation and the impact of inflated grades on the allocation of CAO places.

A sample analysis of other European countries found that Leaving Cert-equivalent results dates ranged from mid-May to early July.

The student and college representatives have written to Ms Foley asking her to accelerate the plans to reform the Leaving Cert and to introduce change within the next three years – including an earlier results date.

IUA director general Jim Miley said the relatively late release of results puts Irish students at a “serious disadvantage” in an increasingly mobile international student market.

THEA chief executive Dr Joseph Ryan said the interventions in the Leaving Cert system following Covid had unintended, but predictable consequences.

“We should learn from this trigger, and accelerate the process of reform that restores consistency and equity while also lessening the pressure upon students,” he said.

USI president Beth O’Reilly said the Leaving Certificate already placed undue stress and pressure on students, and the long summer wait for results and short turnaround to the new academic year created more stress.

She said securing accommodation was the biggest difficulty facing students this year, but first years would be in an even harder situation than most with so little time to try to secure a place to live.


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