NUS hits out at raw deal for college students

3rd August 2012 at 01:00
Many who move on to university courses are forced to repeat a year, says union

Almost half of college students who entered university last year had to repeat at least one year of study, research by the National Union of Students has claimed.

And of the 5,572 students who articulated from college to university in 2010-11, only 2,803 entered directly into second or third year with an HNC or HND qualification.

The figures published by the NUS as part of its widening access report Unlocking Scotland's Potential last week also showed that students entering higher education on a full-time basis that year made up only a third of those with an HNC or HND - leaving "a great deal of untapped potential", according to the report.

The NUS argued that improving articulation routes was crucial to widening access for the most deprived students, as these learners make up 22 per cent of those moving on from further to higher education.

The figures also showed that, contrary to concerns that articulating students might be at higher risk of dropping out, their retention rate was actually higher in three of five regional articulation hubs in Scotland - North East; Edinburgh, Lothians, Fife and Borders; and the South West. Retention was identical to those of students overall in Tayside and Fife, while in Greater Glasgow, retention of articulating students was only 1 per cent lower than for students overall.

Robin Parker, NUS Scotland president warned that there were still too few college students being attracted to university through articulation, and routes were only available into a "narrow choice of universities".

"This means despite an HND being equivalent to second year at university, many students are being forced to repeat years of study, turning a four- year degree into a five- or six-year degree for some.

"Equally, because very few, if any, of our oldest universities enable students to move from college into second or third year, many find their choices to study are very limited," he said.

Universities Scotland's director, Alastair Sim, said the number of students articulating from college to university in Scotland had nearly doubled since 2007-08.

"Widening access is a complex issue and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all students. Advanced entry isn't the right choice for every student - many want to continue to take learning at their own pace and others want the full university experience," he said.

Advanced entry was not always possible and there was still a credit deficit between HNDs and second year of university, he added.

"We share the goal of further increasing articulation and are starting the process of talking to Scotland's Colleges about how we can do more of it," said Mr Sim.

John Henderson, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, said that in times of unprecedented change for colleges it was essential to work with the universities to protect, promote and deliver articulation links.

"We must be willing to work together to improve articulation, offer more courses and guaranteed places and ensure that students' HNC or HND qualifications are valued and that no repetition of study is required."


- To improve articulation opportunities, colleges should continue to sustain their strong record on widening access, while universities should "do more to expand the amount of college recruitment undertaken";

- The number of institutions which undertake articulation work should be broadened;

- The government should "explore ways to increase articulation", such as supplying additional funding for colleges tied to boosting articulation rates, or using outcome agreements for colleges to protect widening access rates within FE and HE provision;

- The inclusion of agreed outcomes for articulation within each college and university outcome agreement would also help increase the "quantity and breadth of articulation".

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