Student Mared Foulkes killed herself after being wrongly told she failed exam

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Image source, family photo
Image caption,
The body of Mared Foulkes was found at Britannia Bridge

A student killed herself after wrongly being told she had failed an exam and could not do her third year, a coroner has found.

Mared Foulkes, 21, of Menai Bridge, Anglesey, was studying pharmacy at Cardiff University and had passed a re-sit of the assessment.

But her results email on 8 July 2020 did not include the re-sit mark.

At the Caernarfon inquest, her mother said the "awful" lack of help from the university led directly to her death.

On the evening after she received the email she drove to a bridge in north Wales, where her body was found.

Recording her conclusion of suicide, coroner Katie Sutherland said Cardiff University's system for telling students their results could be confusing.

Media caption,
Mared Foulkes, 21, killed herself after wrongly being told she had failed an exam

She will write to the university to ask them to look at urgent improvements, and also whether students could receive more support from their personal tutors.

'We cry easily and often'

After the inquest Iona and Glyngwn Foulkes said they never imagined they would outlive their daughter.

"We are left with memories in photograph albums, memories of her kindness and other fine qualities, of her gestures and all that she gave to our family, her brother and her friends," they said.

"Certainties are no longer part of our lives, we cry easily and often. Our tears are uncontrollable and exhausting when unprompted memories remind us we are totally bereft.

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Image caption,
Mared Foulkes was studying at Cardiff University when she died

"Parents should not have to drive by their daughter's grave on their way to and from work.

"We are learning to live without Mared but the task is heartbreaking and we remain very poor students."

They said they hoped in future conversations between universities, students and their families were "timely, inclusive, understandable, respectful and complemented with obstinate compassion".

Mrs Foulkes described her daughter as someone who "loved her family and friends", and was focused on developing her career.

'Lovely, polite and hard-working'

The university's head of pharmacy said that lessons needed to be learned and changes would be made to the way exam results were ratified and given to students.

Ms Foulkes had been working in a pharmacy in Caernarfon in between her studies. Staff there described her as "lovely, polite and hard-working".

She continued her studies and mainly worked from home during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020. She also had to deal with the death of her grandmother in May 2020.

Giving evidence to the inquest, her mother said: "Mared didn't say anything about her results on the day they arrived.

"It was only afterwards that we looked at her phone and saw that she'd texted a friend to say 'I did crap'.

"That evening, Mared said she was going to Tesco to get some things and asked if I needed anything. Then she closed the fridge door, got the car keys and left."

She said students needed support and her daughter's actions were "a direct result of the university on that day".

"Mared had a message saying she'd failed, then later we were told she hadn't failed.

"To be informed that you can't progress, with no contact from the university, would have been awful for anyone, let alone a 21-year-old student.

"She'd have been horrified that the university she loved, the course she loved, would state that. All her dreams and aspirations were finished with that sentence."

'Lessons are always to be learned'

Prof Mark Gumbleton, head of the school of pharmacy at Cardiff University, said Ms Foulkes had taken a practical test on 26 March as part of a module called formulation sciences.

She failed, but went on to re-take it on 24 April, when she passed, but her email in July did not take this re-test into account.

Prof Gumbleton said this was standard practice, but added: "Lessons are always to be learned.

"We acted within the regulations, but we need to move towards a simpler system of ratifying grades.

"The challenge is to avoid a situation where we create confusion. I believe the university is looking at this and changes are going to take place."

The coroner said: "The sharing of results is complex, confusing and capable of being misleading.

"I am comforted by the review that Cardiff University says it is undertaking, but I remain concerned that future deaths will occur."

After the inquest Cardiff University said its "thoughts and sympathies" were with her family and friends.

"Whilst we believe we acted within university regulations, we fully accept that lessons can and should be learnt.

"Changes are already being considered and we will cooperate fully with the coroner's verdict."

If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this article, information on the support available can be found at the BBC Action Line.

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