Lawsuits expected over exams chaos

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The breakdown of the exam results system in Scotland is almost certain to lead to a flood of legal claims from students, a leading compensation lawyer warned yesterday.

The breakdown of the exam results system in Scotland is almost certain to lead to a flood of legal claims from students, a leading compensation lawyer warned yesterday.

Thousands of Scottish teenagers are still waiting for the results of their Highers - the equivalent of A-levels - and it now seems certain that some will miss out on university places as a result. Yesterday, the Glasgow-based compensation lawyer Cameron Fyfe said students have already approached him about seeking redress from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) after their results were delayed.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) has already warned that some of the 5,000 students who received incomplete or inaccurate grades are set to lose their hoped-for university places, thanks to the delays.

Around 2,000 students will still not know by the start of next week what their true results are, giving other students, including English A-level candidates, a head-start in the annual rush. "Every student who has gone through the trauma of waiting for their accurate results and the uncertainty over their future will have a case for compensation for that alone," said Mr Fyfe.

"More importantly, if a university refused to accept a student because of a mistake by the SQA, and their studies were put back a year, then they could claim for one year's loss of earnings. It's difficult to predict, but if every student claimed for a couple of hundred pounds and a few hundred more for loss of earnings, it could run into the millions," said Mr Fyfe.

He added that although the SQA would be initially liable, the Scottish Executive would be more likely to pick up the bill for the claims at the expense of taxpayers.

The Scottish Education Minister, Sam Galbraith, has so far resisted calls for his resignation over the affair. His statement yesterday, that officials did not tell him the truth, could be important evidence for those making claims.

Students across Scotland are waiting to learn by post if their results have been affected by the "data management problems" which left thousands of results incomplete, inaccurate or missing when they were issued last week.

An SQA spokesman said all the affected students had been identified and the organisation would be working over the weekend to trace missing results and correct mistakes. The cause of the problems has yet to be identified.

Students will not know their correct grades until next week at the earliest, which will be too late to seek places on courses where there is high demand.

Ucas chief executive Tony Higgins said: "We estimate that next week around 2,000 applicants will still be waiting for results."

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