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Russell: universities' grasp of new curriculum is 'crucial'

Education Secretary Michael Russell told universities it was "crucial" they have a "good understanding" of the changing landscape under Curriculum for Excellence and plan for a cohort of young people with different experiences and different expectations.

His comments came amid concerns that some universities insist on applicants sitting five one-year Highers in one sitting for certain high- tariff courses, when schools are reforming S4-6 to offer two-year Highers and sittings potentially over three years.

But in a series of workshops delivered at a Ucas conference on higher education in Scotland, admissions officers said although they knew they would have to adapt, there was little chance of their adopting common criteria for entry to their courses.

Some argue that five Highers in one sitting provides evidence of a student's ability to manage a portfolio of exams in one year at university.

Universities' attitudes to an applicant's "personal statement" was one example of diverse practices.

Robin Gordon, head of admissions at Glasgow University for accountancy and finance, arts, science, engineering and social sciences, said he gave more credence to school references than personal statements.

But St Andrews University's director of Scottish admissions and access, Mike Johnson, took a directly opposing view: "For us at St Andrews, the personal statement is the thing."

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