Cardiff University student took her own life after being wrongly told she failed her exam

She was told she would not be able to move onto her third year at university

CW: suicide

Mared Foulkes, a Cardiff University student, sadly took her own life after being wrongly told she had failed her re-sit of an exam.

The pharmacy student, 21, had passed her re-sit but received an email on July 8th 2020 which did not include her updated mark. After she received her email, she drove to Britannia Bridge, Anglesey, where her body was found.

Cardiff University’s head of pharmacy, Professor Mark Gumbleton, has said lessons needed to be learned and that changes would be made to how exam results were ratified and further given to students.

The coroner, Katie Sutherland, said Cardiff University’s system for telling students their results could be seen as confusing: “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.”

Sutherland has stated she will write to the university, asking them to look at urgent (and much-needed) improvements, and also whether students can receive extra support from their personal tutors.

Mared’s mother, at the Caernarfon inquest, also said the “awful” lack of help from the university led to her death directly.

Speaking after the inquest, Mared’s parents, Iona and Glyngwn Foulkes, spoke about life after Mared’s passing.

“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. 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,” they said.

They further said: “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.”

Iona describes her daughter as someone who “loved her family and friends”, and was focused on developing her career. Cardiff University staff have described Mared as “lovely, polite and hard-working”.

She continued her studies from home during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020, where she also had to deal with the death of her grandmother in May 2020.

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.”

Mark Gumbleton said Mared had taken a practical test on March 26th, where she failed but was allowed to re-take it on April 24th.

She had in fact passed, but her July email did not take this into account.

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.”

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.

For more information about the wellbeing support available within Cardiff University, click here.

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