University of Ulster To Honour ‘Accidental’ Places

Students mistakenly received emails of acceptance
Photograph: newfilm.dk – Flickr

BY AISLING GALLAGHER

Thousands of A Level students across Northern Ireland received their results on August 16. Many students were undoubtedly elated at making the required grades for their university course, others were less than pleased with their results, with some spending hours on university phone lines to see if they could be accepted into their course with grades below the university entry requirements.

The University of Ulster School of Engineering mistakenly sent congratulatory emails with offers to 370 people, despite the fact that there were only 194 places in the school. This was due to a computer glitch, as the university was trying out a new system of emailing students with offers for the first time.

Initially, once the mistake had been noted, the university apologised but explained that they would not be able to honour the offers made, due to the lack of physical spaces. However, soon after, the university made a complete U-turn on the issue, declaring that they were “able to honour the offer made.” There remain around 20 students on whom the university is undecided, primarily because they are receiving results in qualifications other than A Levels, and once these have been received a decision will be taken.

The decision of the university to honour the offers given means that the university is very likely to overshoot its maximum student number cap and subsequently face a financial penalty. Bob Mason, the president of the University and College Union at UU, said he estimated that the financial penalty may be around £380,000.

UU’s vice-chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, has personally apologised for the error. UU have made clear that no other department or student support system will be affected by the fine/increase in places. The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Richard Millar, told Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra that the university has a contingency fund for when situations like this, rare as they may be, crop up. He likened it to “[saving] for a rainy day for unforeseen circumstances.”

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