SNP told university places must go to most ‘disadvantaged students’ after exams farce
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A report released today by the National Articulation Forum (NAF), a body of college and university reps, suggests Universities should “ring-fence” degree places for disadvantaged students. These would be achieved by higher education establishments giving a guarantee of places for college students on undergraduate and graduate apprenticeship degrees which would give students more certainty about going to university.
This move, the report says, will help open up fresh higher education opportunities for thousands of “disadvantaged youngsters” and allow more students to progress seamlessly between a Higher National qualification into a university degree.
It comes following the SQA’s higher results crisis which saw thousands of grades downgraded with disadvantaged students hit the most.
There were no exams sat this year due to the coronavirus pandemic so the Scottish Qualifications Authority applied a methodology which saw grades estimated by teachers downgraded.
However, the system caused a backlash from distraught teenagers after the system was branded “fundamentally unfair”.
SQA figures showed it downgraded 124,564 pupils’ results despite no exams being sat – 93.1 percent of all the moderated grades.
More than a quarter (26.2 percent) of grades were moderated by the SQA, a total of 133,762, while 377,308 entries were accepted unchanged.
However, pupils from the most deprived areas of Scotland had their grades reduced by 15.2 percent compared with 6.9 percent in the most affluent parts of the country.
As well as this, the report also called for an acceleration of action to develop pathways from college into a university, to help more students avoid repeating levels of study across different qualifications by recognising their credit for previous learning.
READ MORE: John Swinney apologises for SNP’s Scottish school exam results chaos
This is known within the tertiary education sector as “articulation” and would allow more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study at university.
The report said: “The report’s recommendations take on even greater significance in the context of the recovery following the coronavirus pandemic and its disproportionate impact on young people and those who are already disadvantaged.
“The recommendations are focused on creating more flexible opportunities for learners as well as closer collaboration between colleges and universities to meet learner demand in the post-pandemic economy.”
It stressed the issue was “a matter of importance”.
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The latest Scottish Government figures shows around 15.9 percent of Scotland’s higher education was from the most deprived 20 percent of the population.
This was equivalent to around 5,200 however the Scottish Government’s hopes to increase these by 2021.
Professor Nigel Seaton, Joint Convener of the National Articulation Forum and Principal of Abertay University, said: “The Forum wants to increase the opportunities available to students to articulate from college to university, and our report makes a series of recommendations that we believe will achieve this.
“Whilst the pandemic has brought much uncertainty, I can only see a greater role for articulation in Scotland’s post-pandemic future.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said in response: “Every child growing up in Scotland, regardless of their background, should have an equal chance of attending university and participating in higher education.
“We continue to invest £51 million each year to support 7,000 places for access students and additional places for students progressing from college to university.
“Through our work on the Learner Journey, we continue to work with colleges and universities to improve the opportunities for college students to articulate into all our universities.”
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