Widening access the UU way

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?