A new initiative that could pave the way for more than 1,000 college students to access the second or third year of a university degree has been launched by the Scottish Funding Council.
The new articulation route is part of a pound;10 million funding package announced this week by the Scottish government, creating an additional 2,000 university places.
Of these, 700 places will be provided via widening access schemes and a further 300 on the Skills for Growth scheme, which supports the key industry sectors of energy and life sciences.
Under the articulation initiative, Scottish universities will enter into an agreement with colleges for the FE institutions to provide the HNC or HND portion of a degree in exchange for the lion's share of the funding for those years.
This will allow students to either enter into the second or third year of a university degree programme depending on whether they have completed a one-year Higher National Certificate or two-year Higher National Diploma.
Universities will hold back a small proportion of the funds to be able to provide classes to those students on articulation routes and help align the HN courses more closely with the university degree programme.
A university sector source told TESS that because the funding per full- time student at college is lower than at university, the amount universities will pass on is likely to come close to the amount a college would receive from the funding council for an additional student place.
The funding has come from within universities' main teaching grant and re- investment of the public funding saved by the introduction of fees for UK students from outwith Scotland.
Education secretary Michael Russell said: "This funding will help more college students see their learning count towards a university degree and ensure young people from deprived areas who show potential get the support and education they need to realise that potential."
Details of the scheme were published this week as part of the SFC's indicative grant letter to universities, which outlined the financial settlement for universities for 2013-14.
John Henderson, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: "We hope the initiative will help kick-start the articulation process in more subjects and in more institutions."
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland added: "We know universities can't do it all when it comes to fair access, but they can do much more. With these increased places they really have no excuse but to make real and ambitious progress to open university to talented people from all backgrounds."
A HIGH SHORTFALL
Figures published by the Scottish Funding Council last week have shown a pound;2.2million shortfall in student support funding for college students, according to NUS Scotland.
Despite additional funding being made available both this year and last, demand still exceeded the support available, the student body claimed. This could mean thousands of students not receiving the help they needed.
NUS president Robin Parker said the SFC figures revealed a pound;2.2 million shortfall in vital bursary and childcare funding, despite the SFC finding an additional pound;6 million. The government had rightly protected college student support for next year, but he feared it would not be enough.