College applications based on pre-2020 Leaving Cert must be treated favourably in coming days – Senator Mullen

‘A matter of justice’ that College applications based on 2019 or previous years’ Leaving Certs do not fail because of higher points from calculated grades system.

Independent Senator Ronán Mullen has responded to reports that points for various third-level courses may rise this year by insisting that college applications based on 2019 or previous years’ Leaving Certificate results must not fail because of the ‘calculated grades’ system used in lieu of Leaving Certificate examination results in 2020.

Senator Mullen said that while the reported inflation of grades was understandable given the role of students’ own teachers in assigning marks and the various ‘political commitments’ given by Government in recent months, there remained a responsibility to prevent other college applicants from being the ‘downstream educational victims’ of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The system of calculated grades was designed as a once-off emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a matter of justice now that students who sat the Leaving Certificate exams in a previous year, and who did not accept and defer an awarded place, are not disadvantaged this year.”

“People are more aware now of the complex mechanisms that turn assigned grades in the Leaving Cert into points levels for courses and places awarded. It is a delicate and complicated process that works to avoid sharp fluctuations in points requirements for courses. On the face of it, the allocation of higher grades under this year’s process implies that points for some courses will rise. This is partly because teachers found themselves assessing their own students and partly because the Government gave certain commitments not to take certain measures which would have contributed to the flattening of grades. No system is perfect, but it is important that this year’s arrangements do not make applicants using previous years’ examination results into the downstream educational victims of the Covid-19 crisis.

Senator Mullen noted that ‘certain variables’ could yet contribute to a stabilisation of points requirements for courses. Among these were the creation of additional places on some courses, possible lower demand from overseas students this year, and a lowering of the points required for courses on the basis of an expected increase in deferrals.

“It will be of some consolation to worried parents and college applicants that since much of the coursework will take place online this year, there will be less pressure on college facilities and therefore a greater ability to expand the number of places offered,” he said.

Senator Mullen, who is on leave from a lecturing post in TU Dublin, said that young people should be encouraged to be resilient in the face of uncertainty in the coming days.

“Your dreams for the future should never hinge on your getting a particular college place. You can have your heart on a certain course and it can turn out to be the wrong one for you. Even if you miss out on a course you would have done well with, there are nearly always other ways to follow the same career path and the longer way round is often the most beneficial in the long run.”

“It’s like the Chinese proverb says, ‘Good news, bad news, who knows?’,” Senator Mullen added.