English universities attract fewer Scots

31st August 2012 at 01:00
Dramatic slump in number of Scottish students heading south of the border to study

The number of Scottish school-leavers going to English universities has dropped sharply - a trend widely attributed to divergent policies on tuition fees north and south of the border.

There was a 10.6 per cent decrease this month in students with Scottish addresses who accepted places at English universities, down to 1,369 from 1,532 in 2011.

"Application figures this year have clearly demonstrated the effect tuition fees are having on potential students," said Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students Scotland.

Fees for English universities had "skyrocketed" up to as much as pound;9,000, while there were none in Scotland.

Mr Parker compared "victory after victory" this summer for students in Scotland - on campaigns to abolish part-time fees, provide a minimum student income and protect places - with a "Westminster government stumbling from one education crisis to the next" having tripled tuition fees and reduced student support in England.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said that tuition fees were the most likely cause of the reduction in Scottish students going to English universities.

But he was concerned to see the Westminster government apparently applying pressure to make exams tougher, an issue that has been exercising schools south of the border after GCSEs and A-level pass rates fell for the first time in decades.

It was important, he said, for the Scottish Qualifications Authority to remain "truly independent and not susceptible to outside pressure".

Meanwhile, Scottish independent schools that offer GCSEs and A levels have been caught up in the row in England over tougher marking.

Glenalmond College head Gordon Woods said that, while results had stayed strong at the Perthshire school, there appeared to be an issue with GCSE English, in which candidates at various levels achieved one grade lower than in other subjects.

He thinks this is a result of raising grade thresholds for GCSE exams in English language and literature, and would support an inquiry.

Peter Hogan, head of Loretto School, similarly found that, while performance was generally impressive, grades for GCSE English had not matched expectations.

Pupils and parents at the Musselburgh school were "vexed" by the situation. Mr Hogan is not against checks being placed on grade inflation in principle, but wants a more "joined-up" approach to changes in marking, and assurances that these will be taken into account by universities.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk

SQA RESULTS MAKE HISTORY

Scotland's independent schools have posted the best SQA results in their history.

The overall Higher pass rate rose by one percentage point to 93 per cent, compared with 77 per cent nationally, while the proportion of A grades rose to 56 per cent.

The Advanced Higher pass rate also increased by one percentage point, to 92 per cent.

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