Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Students still wait on blundering University of Ulster

Some students caught up in last week’s University of Ulster admissions blunder are still waiting to learn their fate — five days after mistakenly being told they had successfully achieved a place.

The university said it would contact hundreds of students affected by the computer glitch.

A spokesman said on Monday night: “That process is still under way and nearing completion. We expect to have contacted everyone by close of business on Tuesday.”

A total of 370 e-mails were inadvertently sent out on Thursday congratulating every applicant to the School of Engineering on achieving a place at Ulster — including those who failed to secure the necessary A-Level grades.

Six hours after the error was discovered they then received a second e-mail stating “the fact is no decision has yet been taken”.

The university admitted it was at fault and publicly apologised.

It has now decided to admit every student who applied to the School of Engineering but those with “modest” results will have to undertake an additional year.

Northern Ireland students who take up the offer will have to fund the extra year at £3,465 before living costs.

A university spokesman said: “We will be running an Integrated Foundation Year for students with modest A-levels. Once students successfully complete that course, they will transfer onto the Honours Degree programme for which they original applied.”

Around 100 students affected by the blunder have been offered an ‘Integrated Foundation’ place.

If all of them accept the place it could cost the university up to £380,000 — including tuition fees and financial penalties from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) for exceeding its Maximum Student Numbers.

But it could be another month before the costs are known.

The spokesman said: “We expect acceptances to begin to come in over the next few days. We'd like students to confirm their decision to us by September 14 as enrolments begin on the 17th.

“At this stage it remains impossible to say by how many students the university will overshoot its MaSN cap, as they still have several weeks in which to make their final decisions. Once that final recruitment total is known, we will discuss with DEL financial adjustments that may be required.”

Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry said it remained to be seen how many students will take up the offers.

He added: “I expect this issue to be addressed within current financial arrangements and will be requiring a quality assurance statement from the university that systems have been rectified.”

Factfile

There are around 100 places left in Northern Ireland’s universities, according to latest figures from Ucas. By Monday 8,215 people had accepted a place at University of Ulster, Queen’s University Belfast and Stranmillis. It means that over the weekend 822 people had made the decision to start a full-time undergraduate degree course here in the autumn. Across the UK 399,158 people have now accepted a university place with 61,397 people still waiting a decision.

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