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It takes two

Research by John Field of Stirling University found a two-tier system was springing up between those who went straight into university and those who did so through FE.

His report, Widening Access and Diversity of Provision, stated: "The country's higher education system is distinguished by a high level of participation in short-cycle higher education courses offered through further education colleges. Although this has led to considerable growth in participation, closer investigation suggests that those who enter HE in further education gain significantly fewer benefits as a result than do those who enter degree courses in universities.

"Most significant benefits to learners come from the acquisition of short-cycle higher education qualifications, and not indirectly as a result of the opportunity to progress to full graduate status."

Although the report was published two years ago, Professor Field told The TESS that patterns had not changed. One pattern is that students with HNC or HND are not as readily accepted at the more prestigious universities, whether into first, second or third year.

"There is every sign that articulation arrangements (between colleges and universities) are strongest where student success rates are weakest," he said. "It is not reasonable to conclude from this that articulation students are more likely to withdraw early from their courses than those who enter under other procedures."

The report said completion rates for higher education in further education were not high, judged on the proportion of candidates who successfully completed their course.

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