Latest figures from the admissions service Ucas show a 4.6 per cent rise in university applications from Scotland, up to 37,540 from 35,892 at the same point last year (this excludes applicants for nursing and midwifery training, which were processed by Ucas for the first time this year and - with most from Scotland - distort the figure to 20.5 per cent). The total number of applicants to UK universities, including foreign students, is up 11.6 per cent to nearly 661,000, including rises of 10.6 per cent from England and 35.2 per cent from the Republic of Ireland. Universities Scotland said the most pessimistic forecasts had not transpired and that most applicants would be successful - but it remained one of the most difficult periods in many years to get a university place.
Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, is to stage a series of Curriculum for Excellence roadshows, where he will be quizzed by parents. The first will take place in Inverurie (August 10), Alloa (August 26) and Benbecula (August 31), with more to follow over the year. Labour has accused him of targeting areas where the SNP hopes to win seats in next year's Holyrood elections.
Scottish university students are far less worried about debt after graduation than those elsewhere in the UK. The annual survey by the Association of Investment Companies shows only 7 per cent north of the border predict graduating with more than pound;20,000 of debt, compared with 34 per cent overall. The absence of tuition fees is deemed a likely factor. But National Union of Students Scotland president Liam Burns stressed that, with drop-out rates exceeding the rest of the UK as student hardship increases and a poorer record on widening access, Scotland still had "quite a way to go".
Under the terms of the new legislation, the results of Highland Council consultations on pro- posed primary school closures are available for the public to view until August 4. The schools affected include: Fort William, Upper Achintore, Caol, Lochy- side RC, Fort William RC, Achaphubuil, Glenborrodale, Ach-nasheen, Borrodale and Uig. The evidence will go before councillors on August 5.
A trial project is aiming to reduce crime by giving young offenders more skills. The Scottish Prison Service wants to create a learning environment at Polmont Young Offenders Institution, based heavily on Curriculum for Excellence. Governor Derek McGill, speaking as the plans were revealed by Skills and Lifelong Learning Minister Keith Brown last week, said staff were working with organisations in the community to improve offenders' job prospects. The project will also target young people who are at risk of offending, but have not yet done so.
Scotland is the most expensive place in the UK for summer childcare costs. The average cost for a week has gone up by 5 per cent to pound;100.38, against pound;93.28 in England and pound;80.25 in Wales. Scotland also experienced the most marked decrease in holiday provision, down 47 per cent as council spending cuts and the recession have bitten. Far fewer Scottish parents complain, however, about a dearth of holiday childcare than those in England and Wales.