Pupils are finding it harder than ever to get a place in further or higher education this year because entry requirements have been raised and some institutions have introduced new hurdles for students with conditional offers, according to School Leaders Scotland.
Brian Cooklin, who represents the secondary heads' association on HE and FE matters, told TESS that some universities were putting pressure on students with offers conditional on appeal results by setting deadlines that ran out before the Scottish Qualifications Authority could tell them the outcome of their appeals.
"This is a very difficult time for young people. They have produced excellent individual results and some still haven't been able to secure a place at university," said Mr Cooklin, who is head of Stonelaw High in Rutherglen.
The situation at colleges was similar with higher entry requirements. There was also added competition for FE places from applicants who would normally have got into university with their exam passes but had been turned down this year.
Figures from the admissions service Ucas on initial acceptances into university and college showed a 1.9 per cent decrease on last year.
On the first day of applications, 21,630 Scots were accepted into a Scottish university or college, compared to 22,043 last year.
NUS Scotland president Robin Harper said he hoped to see any initial decrease corrected through higher numbers of acceptances through clearing and elsewhere. "Universities agreed to maintain numbers for this year, so they must now stay true to that commitment," he said.
When TESS went to press, the number of courses with places available through clearing in Scotland had dropped from 499 to 402.
Universities Scotland director Alastair Sim said it was too soon to get a reliable picture of university acceptances this year. Pupils should be reassured that the vast majority of well-qualified applicants who wanted a place at university would get one.
Colleges had made a commitment to maintain the same level of activity as last year, said Scotland's Colleges' chief executive John Henderson.
Julia Belgutay, email@example.com.
FEW PRIMARY TEACHING COURSES AVAILABLE IN CLEARING
Of the seven universities offering teacher training, only Stirling, Glasgow and the University of the West of Scotland had places available on primary teaching courses at the start of clearing.
Richard Edwards, head of the School of Education at Stirling, said places on Stirling's three concurrent education degree courses - primary education with modern languages, the environment and early years - had not been filled initially, partly because the programme had only recently been introduced. The courses differ from traditional BEd degrees by aiming to produce "generalist primary teachers who have a subject specialism", in line with recommendations made by the Donaldson review.
Professor Edwards said the university had raised its entry requirements for teacher education to ensure a high quality of applicants. By Wednesday this week, the courses at Stirling had gone out of clearing.