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Articulation has a stutter

Expectations of the links between Higher National and degree courses, allowing FE students to progress more easily into HE, are often unrealistic, Roger McClure told the meeting.

The funding council's chief executive said: "It is all too easy to blur the distinctions between HN programmes and the first and second years of a degree, and suggest they are essentially the same, that students could go straight into the third year of a degree course and Bob's your uncle. It's not quite like that."

HN courses have a particular vocational ethos, Mr McClure pointed out, whereas degree programmes are devised by individual universities to serve a very different purpose. He called for an end to slogans about articulation which "simply cause friction", and for more work to be done on bridging courses which help students move between different levels.

Margaret Dundas, co-ordinator in charge of widening participation at the FE and HE funding councils, said there were plans to bring together staff from "like-minded subjects" to ease the transition from college to university.

But she cautioned against the assumption that this meant all HN students would automatically qualify to enter the third year of a degree.

Successive Scottish Executive ministers have called for a greater drive behind what is called the "two plus two" approach, in which two years of HN studies can be followed by the final two years of an honours degree. But progress has been slow, with one principal once privately describing articulation arrangements as "everyone agreeing to be nice to each other".

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