Third level entry for first year students delayed as Leaving Certificate postponed

Leaving Certificate exams have been rescheduled to late summer

Leaving Certificate exams have been postponed from June until late July or August, with students intending on entering third level education expected to start at a later date than usual.

This year’s Leaving Certificate has been postponed and the Junior Certificate has been cancelled and replaced by school-based assessments in the next school year following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). 

The higher education admission process, operated by the Central Applications Office (CAO), is expected to operate “as closely as possible” to the standard timeframe for offers, while prospective first year students will receive a delayed entry date for the start of their courses.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “The third level institutions look forward to welcoming this year’s Leaving Certificate students who have applied to enter their courses. I appreciate the particular challenges these students have had to face and I welcome the flexible approach indicated by the sector to enabling these students to take up a place in the year ahead.”

The Department of Education outlined that it has asked the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the higher education sector to consider methods of assisting higher education access for students from under-represented groups.

Primary and secondary schools, along with universities, have been shut since 6pm on March 12 due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that “all decisions we are taking in relation to rescheduling exams are based on current public health advice and put the best interests of students first. The welfare of students and that of their families is front and centre in all decision making.”

McHugh stated: “We’ve had a lot of engagement with representatives from the third level sector. They’ve been very positive and they have adopted the position of flexibility, that they will work with the new timeline.”

A revised exam timetable is due to be released in early June, while arrangements for exam centres, social distancing and other measures are also to be determined by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) in June.

McHugh explained that “asking Leaving Certificate students and their families to refocus their attention from June to August is not something we do lightly”, but said that rescheduling the exams represented the “fairest way of assessing students and giving them certification of achievement in school and a pathway to higher and further education and training, apprenticeship or work”.

Since the revision of Trinity’s academic calendar in 2018, an orientation week for first-year students (Freshers’ Week) has taken place during the first week of September, followed by six weeks of teaching, a study week, and a further five weeks of teaching before two weeks of revision and assessment in the first semester.

In an email to staff and students on Thursday, Provost Patrick Prendergast stated: “We have to prepare ourselves for difficulties over the rest of the semester and during the next academic year. Extensive planning has already begun in order to examine how best to protect the University in what are sure to be constrained times. We know, for better and for worse, that things will not quickly return to the way they were before this pandemic.”

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.