Diane Dodds MLA, Minister for Higher Education, update 22 May 2020:
As Minister for Higher Education in Northern Ireland, I wanted to write to you about what steps I have been taking to ensure your journey into higher education next year is not unduly impacted as a result of Covid-19.
In response to a number of higher education institutions making unconditional and time-bound offers to students, I, along with other Ministers across the UK, had asked universities and colleges to stop making unconditional offers or amending existing offers until 4 May (1 May in Wales). This action was taken because we worried that you may have felt pressured to accept offers over others you might be better suited to, or perhaps would not have normally made. During that time, we have worked with providers to ensure that you will experience an application process like any other given year and you should not be put under any undue pressure by UK higher education providers.
Therefore, to give you time to make your decisions – and to understand more about how qualifications will be awarded this summer, UCAS has extended its offer deadlines for Undergraduate applicants and the rolling decision dates for UCAS Teacher Training applicants and providers. If you’re affected by this extension, UCAS will email you your new decision deadline. For any of you who have received an unconditional offer please consider whether this is the right provider and course for you, before you make a decision.
I also appreciate that you all find yourselves in a very difficult and unprecedented position this year as a result of the pandemic. I am conscious that decisions you made when you first thought of what you had hoped to do this coming academic year may now have changed and you may be re-evaluating your next steps.
As well as opportunities through UCAS Clearing, our local further education colleges deliver higher education courses that provide you with a standalone higher education qualification as well as a stepping stone into the final years of university, including at Queen’s and Ulster. Some of these opportunities are available through UCAS but many others can be explored through contacting a local further education college. Contact details for all higher education providers can be found at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/universities-and-colleges-northern-ireland
For those of you thinking about employment there are also opportunities to allow you to continue your studies and gain a higher education qualification through a Higher Level Apprenticeship offered by a range of employers across a variety of subjects. You can find out about Higher Level Apprenticeships at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/higher-level-apprenticeships
The Department’s Career’s service provides impartial advice for anyone seeking to discuss their future prospects in more detail. If you need help in deciding what is right for you please contact your Careers Adviser by email using your C2K email address, by telephoning 0300 200 7820 or by webchat at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/chat-with-a-careers-adviser
I would urge you to utilise this free service and explore your options.
I fully appreciate that it has been an extremely difficult time for you all, and I wish you all well in securing the next steps you hope for on your educational journey.
Information on the awarding of Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) GCSE, AS, and A level qualifications
On 16 April, the Minister of Education in Northern Ireland, Peter Weir MLA, announced the way forward for the awarding of Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) GCSE, AS, and A levels.
Following the instruction by the Minister of Education, CCEA has released further information and guidance to all schools and colleges, including the process for how calculated grades will be determined.
The Education Minister announced that he would also ‘…seek to align the issuing of results with England and Wales (i.e. A level results on 13 August and GCSEs on 20 August), thus ensuring that local candidates are not put at a disadvantage…’.
Access to HE Diploma
Cambridge International IGCSE and international A level
City & Guilds international vocational qualifications, technical qualifications, and end-point assessments (EPAs)
Irish Leaving Certificate
NCFE and CACHE qualifications
OCR Cambridge Technicals
Oxford AQA international qualifications
We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they haven’t been able to complete their assessments. If you do not feel your calculated grades reflect your expected performance, you will have the opportunity to appeal or you may choose to sit your assessments at the earliest reasonable opportunity. If you do this, you should be aware that taking your assessments later may impact you progressing to university in September as planned.
Attending a UCAS event?
To protect the health and wellbeing of all those attending, we’ve postponed UCAS higher education exhibitions until 31 July.
You can attend a virtual open day to find out more about unis, or chat to current students with Unibuddy.