Scotland ignored in university shake-up

12th July 1996 at 01:00
Schools and universities in Scotland are concerned that proposed changes to the higher education entry system are unnecessary and designed to meet problems confined to south of the border. The September deadline for making responses to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals is also regarded as absurdly tight.

Jenny Carter, schools liaison officer for Aberdeen University, said that the Scottish attitude was likely to be, "if it isn't broken, don't mend it". She hoped that if the procedures of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) are changed in 1999, as proposed, they will take into account the Higher Still reforms which by then will have been implemented.

The vice-chancellors and principals are proposing a two-phase arrangement combining pre and post-qualification admissions and reducing the number of choices by applicants. In the first phase they would apply for four universities of their choice, with no order of preference, between November and February. Only one place could be held and if no place is secured candidates would apply through phase two.

This would operate after Higher and A-level results. Up to two choices would be allowed with no order of preference. At present applicants are allowed six choices of institution.

Roddy Livingston, a director of UCAS and faculty officer at Strathclyde Business School, believes Scottish pupils could benefit by not having to name their first set of choices until after prelims. "They would then be more mature in their assessment of whether they would match the entry requirements for a course," Mr Livingston said.

He admitted that the present system suited Scotland well and that England was trying to catch up. The range of entry qualifications had greatly expanded and candidates needed to be better informed about how their qualifications matched an institution's requirements.

Mr Livingston said: "We must continue to ensure that personal choices are made by candidates and institutions." The system by which candidates could write about their interests and aspirations, and be backed by a school or other referee, had to be preserved.

John Mitchell, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, warned that Scottish schools were not being consulted and said the deadline for responses was far too soon. The move would encourage the development of a two or three-tier university system and would not be welcome in Scotland.

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