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Tariff system for university entry set to be scrapped

The points-based "tariff" system used mainly by students applying to higher education in England is expected to be scrapped in line with a recommendation by the admissions service Ucas.

Instead, universities will ask applicants for specific qualifications and grades when offering places on degree courses.

The tariff system has traditionally had little uptake in Scotland - Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh is thought to be one of the few that uses it alongside other systems - but has much wider currency in England.

Under the current tariff system, designed more than a decade ago, A levels and other courses such as Highers and Advanced Highers, are each given a points score. Universities then use these points to make offers to students. But concerns have been growing that university applicants now have a wider range of qualifications than ever before that are not all recognised by the current tariff.

With A levels in England facing major reform under the Westminster government and the patterns and routes for pupils to gain Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland likely to become more diverse in Scotland under Curriculum for Excellence, the proposal has received broad backing.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, told TESS the proposal should deliver a more level playing field for Scottish applicants to English universities but would require to be watched carefully.

Aileen Ponton, chief executive of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership, said: "We are pleased to see a move away from the points system and a clear recognition that there is now a real diversity of qualifications to work with and consider when looking at entry to HE."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Qualifications Authority said that it would be working with Ucas on the development of qualification information profiles to "reflect the broad range of skills, knowledge and understanding the university entrants will bring".

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