A student who sat the Leaving Certificate in 2019 has brought a High Court challenge after missing out on her first choice of university course.

Martha Woods, from Murragh, Enniskeane, Co Cork, got 613 points in her Leaving Cert last year but missed out on a place in dentistry in UCC this year after the entry requirement rose by 23 points.

Her lawyers say she was treated unfairly due to this year's grade inflation in the calculated grades system.

They say steps should have been taken to redress the imbalance for students from previous years who were "placed in the same basket" as those who benefitted from 4.4% grade inflation.

In a sworn statement submitted to the court, Ms Woods said she sat the Leaving Cert in 2019 and began a course in physiotherapy but left soon after, planning to apply the following year for dentistry.

With 613 points she felt she "would most certainly have achieved a place" in dentistry because the 2019 requirement was 590 points.

After reading explanatory documents about calculated grades process, she understood grades and points for 2020 would be standardised to ensure they were in line with previous years.

She said she was shocked and surprised at the increase in points required and despite having the required the minimum points for dentistry this year, did not gain a place because the course was over subscribed and she lost out on the lottery system. 

She has since "reluctantly" accepted her second choice course of Pharmacy in UCC but her "absolute career choice" is dentistry, she said.

Applying for leave to seek a judicial review, senior counsel Pearse Sreenan told the court his client had been assessed by the CAO "in the same basket" with all of the other applicants who had benefitted from grade inflation.

He said this was a breach of her entitlement to equality. 

Mr Sreenan said his complaint was that steps were not taken to redress the imbalance and there was no attempt made by the CAO or UCC to address the injustices arising from the 2020 system. 

Asked by Mr Justice Meenan if effectively deferring an application was a risk you run, Mr Sreenan said the risk you run is that points can rise or fall but not that you are compared against those who benefitted from a 4.4% grade inflation.

Standardisation had created an unfairness and the CAO had not endeavoured in any way to remedy that injustice, he said, adding that it was not a level playing field.

He said the CAO and UCC have a discretionary power and should exercise it.

Mr Justice Meenan said it was the second application relating to the 2020 Leaving Certificate to come before the court.

He said it was neither "possible nor feasible" to accommodate numerous cases on this issue as there was already a back log of cases due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The judge said it was his hope that a case which came before the court yesterday could be the "lead case" on the issues and that most or all of the issues could be resolved in one case.

He suggested both legal teams confer to see if their issues could be dealt with in the lead case and adjourned it until next week.

In her action Ms Woods is seeking a number of declarations and orders including a declaration that the final operation of the calculated grades, in particular the national standardisation, breached her legitimate expectation that calculated grades would be reasonably standardised to past years.

She also wants a declaration that the national standardisation process breached her constitutional right to equality and her right to earn a livelihood. She will also ask the court to quash the decision to use the national standardisation process and a an order directing the state to revise the process for the production of calculated grades. 

Ms Woods also seeks a declaration that UCC and the CAO's decision to refuse to accept her to first year dentistry was an improper exercise of their discretionary powers and a declaration that her application should have been considered on different criteria.