Full marks to UU for their novel approach to widening access by giving everybody who applied for their engineering courses a place whether one existed (exists) or not. Very French. For the full story please follow the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19307130
Here we have a situation where:
– there were 180 places but all 370 applicants were offered a place as a result of a computer error whether or not they met their conditional offers;
-it was not possible for the University to honour their offer because of funding and space restrictions;
– having realised their mistake, the University apologised publicly and said they would be contacting the individuals who had been offered a place but had not met their offer and apologising personally;
– thanks to the BBC the unfortunate recipients of the errant e mails achieved “victim” status (eg Donna Traynor referred to them as such on Newsline);
– the University, with the agreement of DEL, has now decided to make spaces and places for those applicants wrongly offered a place on their engineering courses.
Full marks to the University for apologising so quickly and putting forward spokesmen of the appropriate stature; it would have been nice though for the man who took the flak for the bad news to be the bearer of the good news.
Full marks again to the University and DEL for moving so quickly or perhaps not.
In sum a bad news story with potentially unfortunate consequences for some individuals has been turned around. But hang on….is it that straightforward? Are there not a number of questions to be asked? starting with ….
Who benefits from the extra intake? Those students who met their offers who will now be joined by those who did not and who will have equal access to already constrained resources?
Where is the extra resource (teaching and non teaching staff, accommodation, books, terminals, pastoral support etc) to be conjured from? Will say additional staff be recruited and timetables and classrooms rescheduled or will student numbers in lectures and seminars be simply doubled up?
What does it say for the academic integrity of the courses and academic standards if those unqualified to join the courses, do so and progress through to degrees. Statistically there should be an increased percentage of drop outs if a pool is widened, will this happen?
Will UU and potential future students be penalised by a reduced number of places and thus reduced funding following a re-adjustment of MaSN by DEL?
How on earth did the University secure the agreement of DEL, it’s officials and Minister, inside 48 hours. It is simply not possible. Could it be the University made up its own mind and Stephen Farry and DEL are an irrelevance in this matter?
Finally this was an unfortunate error, with unfortunate consequences for some (quantity unknown as yet) but in reality most will recognise that they did not meet the required standard, that an email was sent erroneously, and that nothing changes either of these two facts. UU should have apologised personally, given them some book tokens and kept the gate closed.
I wonder what legal advice UU took?