A Wexford student who sat his Leaving Cert in 2019 and hoped to secure a college place this year says he feels as though he's been 'forgotten' and 'abandoned' by the Department of Education after missing out on his top two college choices as a result of this year's inflated points requirements.
Ronan Cloney (20) from Rathnure had deferred for a year, knowing that he had more than enough points to study his chosen subjects - Business, Economics, Politics and Sociology in Trinity. While there were celebrations in households across Wexford as Leaving Cert results were published last week - the highest grades on record - for Ronan, a former student of Good Counsel College in New Ross, it provoked major alarm bells as he realised it may cost him his chosen course.
As the CAO offers came out on Friday, the spike in leaving cert results meant an inflation in points requirements for courses, ultimately culminating in Ronan missing out on his top choice.
'I had more than enough points for the course last year,' he explained. 'This year it's gone up by 23 points. It's really disappointing. We feel totally thrown aside in this. We had sent emails to the department and to TDs on it as early as May and we were assured that while points fluctuate, it wouldn't be more than any other year as this year's grades would be completely fair.'
Subsequently, this years calculated grades saw a rise of 4.4% and the highest grades on record.
'The whole things has fallen apart on them,' Ronan said. 'No part of this has worked fairly. I got offered my third choice which is Economics and Politics through social science in UCD, so I've decided to accept that. It's not exactly what I wanted and I have a bit of a fight on my hands, but I can still get what I wanted out of it, just in a different way. It's people who had deferred who were hoping to study dentistry or medicine or farming etc that I feel sorry for. They've been locked out of those courses completely now with no alternative.'
'It's simply not fair,' Ronan continued. 'People take a year out for a variety of reasons. It could be mental health, it could be to save to go to college and now they've had the rug pulled from under them. I had put my first choice down as a safe bet and I never would've thought it would go up by as much as it did. I didn't expect to be backed into a corner. It was only after we put initial pressure on that they made an extra 2,050 college places available. How much of an increase would we have seen had these places not been created?'
Initially, last year Ronan had taken up a place studying law and German in Trinity, but found the language to be incredibly tough going. He was told that switching courses mid way through the semester wasn't possible and was presented with two options - continue or drop out, defer for the year and re-apply.
'Of course they told me there was always the risk the points would go up,' he said. 'But they said to look at how many points my course required last year and the increase in points we'd seen in other years.'
Unfortunately for Ronan, 2020 has not been like any other year.
'I was disappointed,' he said. 'I don't think anyone can 100% honestly say this is fair. This is not me throwing the toys out of the pram because I didn't get my first choice. It's nothing against this year's Leaving Certs, but I know if everyone sat this year's exam as normal I probably would have got my course. Also, if I were to defer for another year, the points would probably come down again, but I can't wait and put my life on hold for another year. I want to get in, get my degree and get out and get to work. Unfortunately, I probably have a little more work to do now to get to where I need to be, but I've accepted the situation now.'
With Ronan being among some 10,000 students who deferred and on Friday were facing inflated points requirements, he hasn't let the injustice of it get to him and is moving forward with good grace.
'Last year I know I would have been devastated,' he says. 'Now, there's so much going on in the world at the moment, that I suppose it gives you a bit of perspective. It's not the end of the world.'