University offers foundation course after email blunder

University of Ulster's Jordanstown Campus The students affected had applied to the University of Ulster's faculty of computing and engineering

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The University of Ulster is to introduce an engineering foundation year to help students affected by an email admissions blunder last week.

The university mistakenly sent emails offering 370 places on courses in the faculty, but only 180 places were available.

It later withdrew the offer, but subsequently said it was now looking into offering 100 extra places.

The vice-chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, has apologised personally.

He said: "We made a mistake which has caused anxiety and stress to many of our applicants and to their families. We deeply regret that. We apologise for that. We are accepting responsibilities."

He said discussions were taking place with individual students on the best way forward - but this could mean an extra year at university.

"We are confident that students with the appropriate A-levels will be on the honours degree," he said.

"There will be some students who we believe do not have the qualifications to go onto the honours degree.

"So what we're re-introducing is a foundation year which is an introductory year; those with more modest A-levels (will be put) onto an introductory year first.

Financial control

"If they work hard they'll be able to progress to the honours degree."

The engineering courses are taught at the university's Jordanstown campus.

On Sunday, Northern Ireland's employment and learning minister said it was likely that the university would breach restrictions on student numbers, designed as a means of financial control.

Dr Stephen Farry said although his department "cannot take this development lightly", the cap was "somewhat of a blunt instrument" and was already under review.

The dean of the university's faculty of computing and engineering, Prof Richard Millar, said about 100 students could be affected.

"For all students for whom we have a complete set of examination results, we are able to honour the offer made," he said.

"These decisions are being communicated to the individual students through Ucas and we expect them to be confirmed on Ucas track.

"The university wishes to reassure applicants that the information recorded on Ucas track is, and has always been accurate."

He said it had not received full sets of examination results for 20 students.

"Decisions on these students will be taken as soon as this information is available," he added.

Prof Millar said the 370 students who received unconditional offers had been made up of those who had made the University of Ulster their first choice and their "insurance choice".

He said that "in light" of the extra student numbers it was admitting, it would "put in place additional teaching and pastoral support".

One student from County Antrim who had received the erroneous email said he welcomed the university's decision.

The University of Ulster has campuses in Belfast, Jordanstown, Coleraine and in Londonderry.

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