CAO Round 1 offers may be delayed until Friday September 9 because of the late release of Leaving Cert results.
t would mean the offers would be several days later than last year, putting further pressure on the timeline for first years starting college.
Discussions on a potential date for CAO offers were held after it was confirmed that the Leaving Cert results will issue on Friday September 2.
There had been speculation that this year’s CAO Round 1 offers would follow on Tuesday September 6, mirroring what happened last year, when results issued on Friday September 3.
However, it has emerged that the timing of the transmission of Leaving Cert results data to the CAO this year may not allow for offers to be made until Friday September 9 – a full week after the results are issued.
Even pushing CAO Round 1 offers out to September 6 was going have an impact on college start dates for freshers.
Monday September 5 is the general college re-opening date for continuing students and, if the results and offers were not delayed this year, freshers could have expected to start then.
UCD confirmed that it had pencilled in September 26 as the start date for tuition for first years, with orientation starting on September 19.
Other higher education institutions would have had broadly similar contingency plans.
However, if, as emerged subsequently, September 9 is now the likely date for first round of offers, it will add to the pressure for both colleges and students. On the basis of Round 1 on September 9, the date for acceptances would be September 14, followed by Round 2 on September 19, with acceptances due on September 21
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) faces challenges on several fronts in relation to the release of results.
Traditionally, they issue mid-August, but they have been delayed in 2020, 2021 and 2022, because of the exceptional Leaving Cert arrangements, due to Covid.
One reason is the running of a full, second sitting of the exams – starting June 30 – for students who were hit by Covid, or who could not sit the exams in June or another exceptional medical reason, or because of a bereavement.
Hundreds of candidates have been unable to take one or more exam in the first sitting, because of Covid, which means thousands of individual papers will emerge for grading in July.
There is also a shortage of examiners, which has been compounded by some of those who have signed up for the job coming down with Covid.
The third issue contributing to the late release of results was the guarantee to students that grades, overall, would be no lower than last year. This will require data analysis after the papers are marked and is likely to involve some overall adjustment to grades.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said the late release of results will have a “negative impact” on new students.
USI deputy president and vice president for academic affairs Megan O’Connor said it would have a “hugely disruptive effect on students’ learning”.
She pointed to the possibility of a shorter, more condensed first semester for first year students, who would “probably lose out on reading weeks, or institutions may have to delay first semester assessments until after the Christmas break”.
Ms Thornton’s comments were made before it emerged that the CAO Round 1 maybe even later than she expected.
On the basis of the offers coming a few days before September 9, she said there would be “an incredibly tight timeline between results and the beginning of the academic year”.
She added: “Some students will likely be faced with the impossible choice of beginning college at orientation with their classmates or waiting for an appeal to try and gain entry into a higher preference course. It’s just more disruption after an extremely tough couple of years.
“Along with the academic effect on students, it will inevitably make it even harder for students to secure safe and affordable accommodation close to their chosen.”