An 18-year-old Co Wexford student, whose leaving cert marks were wrongly totted up by an examiner, could lose her chance of a place in a college veterinary medicine course, the High court was told Tuesday.
Rebecca Carter is suing the State Examination Commission, legally challenging its decision not to re-check her results before mid-October, effectively costing her a place at UCD which decides its student allocation by the end of September.
Mr Justice Richard Humphreys was told that UCD had agreed not to allocate Rebecca’s potential placing until September 30 allowing the court to deal with her judicial review of decisions to date relating to her exam results.
Rebecca, of Ardcolm Drive, Rectory Hall, Castlebridge, Wexford, is also suing the Central Applications Office, which processes applications for undergraduate courses in third level colleges, and UCD seeking to restrain the college from refusing her a place on the course.
Micheal P O’Higgins SC, who appeared with barrister Brendan Hennesy for Ms Carter, told Judge Humphreys that Rebecca had repeated her leaving certificate exams in May 2018 and received 554 points, just six points short of the required number for veterinary medicine in UCD.
“The points required for the course dropped to 555 in the second round offers and she was then only a point short,” Mr O’Higgins said. “She was not satisfied that her results accurately reflected her exam performance and took part in a review in the presence of two teachers.”
Mr O’Higgins, who was instructed by Dublin solicitor Eileen McCabe, said the review revealed that in Rebecca’s business exam script the examiner had given her 17 plus 19 plus 30 but had then wrongly totted up the marks to 56 instead of 66. Had the error not occurred Rebecca’s final total points would have surpassed what was required for veterinary medicine.
He told Judge Humphreys in papers submitted to the court that when the error was uncovered she and her family contacted the Commission to have matters put right so she could take up her place. She had then been told the Commission could not correct the error until mid-October. If the mistake was not corrected until October she would have to wait until 2019 to commence the course.
“The delay in correcting an obvious totting up error until after the third level places for the year have been allocated is unreasonable, egregious and contrary to common sense,” Mr O’Higgins said. “Rebecca is severely prejudiced by the Commission’s decision.”
He said Rebecca and her family had made exhaustive efforts to resolve the matter but to no avail despite it involving no more than a correction of a clear and obvious administrative error. Rebecca had a legitimate expectation that her leaving certificate results would accurately reflect her exam performance marks in time for the allocation of third level college places.
Mr O’Higgins said the Commission had applied an unduly strict and improper policy in dealing with Rebecca’s case and was under a duty to reconsider and correct an error made known to them in time. The Commission and the Central Applications Office had failed to conduct an adequate inquiry into the information submitted to them.
Barrister Aoife Carroll, counsel for the State Examination Commission, told the court there had been more than 9,000 issues to be determined by the Commission on appeal relating to more than 5,000 examination candidates.
She told the judge, who was seeking to find a pragmatic solution to Ms Carter’s issues, that if this occurred they could find that next year there could be 5,000 applications for judicial review before the court. Ms Carroll asked for an adjournment for a week to allow her file opposition papers to Ms Carter’s application.
The judge told both the Commission and UCD that by 11 o’clock on Monday next they should file opposition papers to Ms Carter’s proceedings. He suggested there could be a full hearing of the application by next Monday or Tuesday.
Mr O’Higgins said it was vital to Ms Carter that the possibility of her being able to start in her desired course this year be preserved.
Ms Carroll said it may ultimately be more convenient for the court to hear the entire matter as any application for interim relief would in effect result in a full hearing in any case.