Universities are preventing access to people from non-traditional backgrounds by downgrading higher national diplomas, Linda McTavish, principal of Anniesland College, told the conference. The Scotcat system of credit accumulation was failing in practice.
Colleges viewed the higher national certificate as equivalent to the first year of university and the diploma to the second year, but some universities rated the diploma only as a first-year course, she said.
"That isn't any good. The people coming from the poorer backgrounds are going to have a greater depth and you're making the road even longer. The sector should investigate the qualifications. Let Scotcat really work. The theory is absolutely fantastic but sometimes admissions officers don't understand thetheory," Mrs McTavish said.
Given the financial commitment students were making, it was even more important that universities re-examined their entry qualifications.
Mrs McTavish appealed to universities to recognise the expanded role of further education. Nearly 40 per cent of entrants to higher education come in through the colleges, she pointed out. Colleges were already working with non-traditional students. Anniesland had 100 outreach bases.