Students win record number of university places


A record number of Scottish pupils have gained a university place on exam results day.

The Higher pass rate dipped very slightly by 0.2% but the total number of passes remained above 150,000 for a third successive year.

University admissions body Ucas said more than 28,700 pupils gained places, 400 more than last year.

It said the figure included a 13% increase in placed applicants from Scotland's most deprived communities.

This year's results in National 4 and 5, Highers and Advanced Highers were broadly in line with 2016.

Candidates passed 150,010 Highers although the pass rate (A-C) was marginally down at 77% compared with 77.2% last year.

Advanced Higher passes fell to 19,283, with a pass rate of 80%.

The pass rate for National 4 was 92.8% and 79.5% for the National 5, also very close to last year's figures.

There was, however, a significant drop in the number of pupils taking the internally-assessed National 4 qualification - 116,032, down from 122,961.

Image source, PA

Exam passes are high by historic standards, more youngsters are staying on at school and going to college or university.

Is this a good thing in itself? Or is the education system simply having to adapt to the fact that in the modern world there are fewer good jobs for young people, and that unskilled jobs are disappearing?

Pass marks can vary each year depending on the difficulty of the exam, but there was no repeat of the situation two years ago when it had to be set at 35% in Higher maths because the paper was harder than expected.

Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, said the figures demonstrated stability in the system.

"One of the things that we absolutely have to ensure is that standards are maintained and we can see that candidates are reaching those standards and attaining as they have done in the past," she said.

In maths, the attainment rate rose to 74% from 73.5% last year at Higher, while in English the attainment rate dropped from 78.8% in 2016 to 77.3% this year.

There was an increase in the number of pupils taking and passing qualifications in skills for work and personal development courses.

High standards

Education Secretary John Swinney congratulated pupils during a visit to Bannerman High School in Baillieston, Glasgow

He said: "The whole country should rightly be proud of the excellence and achievement in Scottish education demonstrated by these results.

"We expect to see small variations in pass rates year on year, which demonstrate the high standards, strength and integrity of our national qualifications."

Opposition parties offered their congratulations to students and teachers but said results were achieved "in spite" of education changes.

Image caption,
Skills Development Scotland staff are ready to advise on exam results

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "In some key core subjects - including history and some modern languages - there is a marked drop in the number of entries. And in many subjects, we also see attainment falling, particularly at Advanced Higher level.

"The fundamental problems remain the same. We have too few teachers in classrooms. And, as the Sutton Trust recently declared, we have a school system that doesn't give enough children the opportunity to really excel and push on."

Labour's Iain Gray said: "The reality is that these results have been achieved by pupils and teachers in spite of SNP government cuts to education budgets, teacher numbers and support staff."

Ucas said almost all the Scottish applicants to win university places had chosen to study in Scotland.

'Right direction'

The Scottish Funding Council's interim chief executive John Kemp said: "This reflects the strength of the university sector in Scotland.

"I am especially pleased today to see the 13% increase in students from the most deprived areas of Scotland going to a Scottish university. Although there is more work to be done, today's figures indicate that we are taking significant steps in the right direction."

A free helpline is available on 0808 100 8000 for anyone seeking practical advice regarding their exam results.

Operated by Skills Development Scotland, it will be open from 08:00 until 20:00 on Tuesday and Wednesday and between 09:00 and 17:00 until 16 August.

The group's acting director of operations James Russell said: "Our message for those young people and their parents and carers as the results arrive is not to panic.

"Everything might seem overwhelming at that point. Our experienced advisers are there to help and have information on all the options and opportunities young people can consider."

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.