Exeter error leaves 200 students without university place
Almost 200 high-flying A-level students had their places confirmed at Exeter University, only to discover that they had in fact been rejected – and missed out on places at other universities, it emerged last night. Another 200 students were offered a place at the wrong campus.
The sixth-formers, many of whom had almost straight-A grades but had narrowly missed their offers for Exeter, celebrated after receiving congratulatory letters from the university admissions service, Ucas, confirming their places last Thursday.
But when some went to check online hours later, they found they had been rejected. A clerical mistake at Exeter had led 190 students to be accepted in error.
The university says it tried to call all the students involved, but many will now be left without a university place this year because they missed the first five days of clearing, the system for allocating leftover places.
Four-fifths of university places available through clearing have already been filled, with 33 students chasing after each one that remains, figures showed today.
Ucas says 138,506 students have yet to secure a university place and are eligible for clearing, while just 4,200 spaces on degree courses are left. Five days after A-level results, 411,164 students have had their places confirmed for this autumn, compared with 368,532 at the same point last year.
Some 17,800 have found a place through clearing, compared with 6,633 at the same point last year. But 138,506 would-be students are still hoping for a last-minute vacancy, compared with 119,705 at this time last year.
Exeter has offered places to the 190 students affected – for 2010.
Becky Anderton, from Lancashire, achieved an A and two Bs last Thursday, narrowly missing her offer from Exeter to study maths, but received a letter from Ucas confirming her place. “My mum burst into tears of happiness and we were at home celebrating. Then, when I checked online the next day, it said I had been unsuccessful.”
An admissions tutor from Exeter called her the next day to explain the error.
The 17-year-old has decided to accept a place for 2010, although she wanted to go to university this autumn and is anxious about how she is going to find a job at such short notice.
She said: “To be told I’ve got in, and then over 24 hours later to be told I haven’t – it’s a shock, to say the least. I started to cry, but I came to the realisation that there was nothing I could do about it.”
Her mother, Heather, said: “It has been devastating. We’ve felt very angry, but had no one to shout at. The university’s inefficiency has cost my daughter a year, and that is a year in earnings.”
Another student wrote on the Guardian’s website as coolkathryn91: “As one of the 190 students who has been affected by this, having received my offer letter and having it taken away from me again in under 24 hours, I can safely say it has been the worst few days ever.
“I can also say that the university did not at all make any effort to contact me … even though my parents contacted them on numerous occasions at numerous levels leaving numerous methods of contact. Only the head of law bothered to respond. I have accepted the offer for 2010, but am now having to plan a very impromptu gap year.”
Another student, writing as nandop, said that Exeter had withdrawn the offer of a place for this autumn, but then re-offered it with the following warning: “If you do decide to take up our offer of a place… the student numbers will be exceptionally high. Whilst we will do everything possible to ensure you receive the same standard of education despite the high student numbers, you may prefer to come in 2010.”
In another error, 188 students were sent a letter to say they had a place at the university’s main campus in Exeter. In fact, they should have been offered places at its Cornwall campus, almost 100 miles away.
The university sent the students an email and text message to say the letter was wrong, but later offered them a place at the main campus.
Professor Janice Kay, deputy vice-chancellor for education at Exeter, said: “We are sorry that problems in our admissions process have caused uncertainty for some applicants. We made every possible effort to inform applicants as to the correct position as soon as we were aware of the problems which had occurred. We will be looking very closely at what went wrong this year, but for the moment our focus is on informing and helping those students who have been affected.”
A spokesman from Ucas said: “We are working extremely closely with Exeter to support them in repairing the situation.”
The situation is not thought to have occurred at other universities.