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S grade steps out on HE ladder

PUPILS would earn points for entry to a Scottish or English university if they achieve the top two levels at Standard grade under plans being considered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

An updated and extended tariff system, giving points for all qualifications north and south of the border from Standard grades to A-levels, has been sent out for consultation by the SQA on behalf of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The need for universities to make more valid comparisons of student achievement was underlined by SQA research last year which showed that Highers were worth far more than English universities thought they were.

And while Highers and Certificates of Sixth Year Studies may have been undervalued, A-level students may have been overvalued by Scottish universities.

The plethora of new qualifications north and south of the border, including Higher Still, has emphasised the need for reform. The tariff is also designed to dovetail with the new Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework which links all qualifications from Higher Still to postgraduate degrees.

Under the outline scheme, devised by exam agencies across Britain, pupils at the new Intermediate 2 level and Standard grade levels 1 and 2 would receive 38 and 28 points respectively for university entry. An A pass at Higher would be worth 72 points, a B 60 and a C 48. Next down would be an A pass at Intermediate 2 worth 42 points, just above level 1 of Standard grade.

The SQA argues that students leaving for university in S5 should have their Standard grades recognised.

CSYS students are said to be in line with the top three grades at A-level. An A pass at A-level or CSYS would be worth 120 points, a B 100 and a C 80, just above the 72 points for an A at Higher.

The Advanced Higher, when it is introduced, will automatically be equated with CSYS exams and the top three grades of A-level.

Dennis Gunning, the SQA's director of development, said: "This is a quick ready-reckoner that gives a total for qualifications achieved and it can only be the first step in the decision-making process. It is not scientific and highly accurate but it does give a means of comparing Scottish qualifications with English qualifications." Dr Gunning said the system would accredit students for all work, including units completed and core skills. It would not distort the curriculum.

Some 6,500 Scottish students apply for a place at an English university but 24,000 English students apply to Scottish universities. Individuals can make up to six applications. Wales and Northern Ireland are also involved in the new system. Not all universities use a tariff system.

A spokeswoman for the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals welcomed the initiative, although institutions are still discussing the report.

Principals were said to be happy that Scotland will almost certainly fare better in comparison with English universities when any league tables are being compiled. The mismatch between the value of the Higher and A-levels would be addressed.

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