Trinity’s Vice Provost Professor Chris Morash has said that “there is still a considerable way to go in the time it takes to mark the Leaving Certificate”. The comments were made to Trinity News following the announcement by Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, and Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, that the Leaving Certificate system would see “significant changes”.
According to Morash, “Trinity has worked, along with the other six Irish universities through the IUA [Irish Universities Association], and with THEA [Technological Higher Education Association], representing the Institutes of Technology, to find a way to work with the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to make sure that Leaving Certificate students who appeal their result are not disadvantaged”.
He noted that Trinity “will make sure that students who join courses late for that reason are given supports”. However, he noted that the “real change” relates to appeals, and how the SEC reduces appeal correction times. Morash welcomed the change to the appeals process, and the plan to shorten the duration of the initial exam corrections.
However, when Morash noted that there was “still a considerable way to go” in rectifying this process. He said that it was particularly pressing “if one puts it in the context of the considerably shorter turn-around times for marking examinations in universities”. He believed that it was time to take “a wider look at how the Leaving Certificate is marked”.
He concluded his comments by stating that “there would be a huge advantage to be gained if the universities were able to offer places to students much sooner than mid-August”.
These incoming changes to the Leaving Certificate system mean that students will be informed of their results “much earlier than has previously been possible”. The aim of this new plan is to ensure that students “will in most cases now be able to take up [their chosen course] in the current academic year, rather than having their offer deferred by a year”.
Morash failed to shed any light on the impact this would have on the commencement of the academic year, with plans for examination results to be distributed “a full three weeks earlier than the normal timeframe”. Recognised by the SEC as a “fundamental re-engineering” of the process, examiners will now “mark scripts on a full-time basis rather than only at evenings and weekends”, resulting in grades being issued to students between one and two weeks earlier than in previous years.
It is also hoped that the transition over the next three years to an online model of examinations will further improve this appeals time. However, it is not yet clear whether these reductions in time will impact on the commencement of the academic year in College.
The comments follow shortly after the judgment of the High Court by a University College Dublin (UCD) student, who argued that the existing timeframe for processing reviews resulted in her not being able to take up her offer until the following year, as a result of delays. The court criticised the process and said that it “should not be repeated”, while also calling it “highly unfair”.
However, the Department of Skills and Education will be appealing the judgment, challenging the findings of the “broad Constitutional and legal issues raised by the judgment and findings relating to aspects of the examinations system”. They have stated that this will in no way affect the student at the centre of this case. It is unclear what impact this will have on these new measures.
Speaking following the announcement, Minister for Education Joe McHugh TD noted that his department had worked on the issue with the SEC, and that “together [they] have been considering the outcome of the judgment and how best to help our students in the coming years”.