The Scottish Office has boosted moves to merge vocational and academic education by appointing David Miller, currently chairman of the Scottish Vocational Education Council, to be chairman of the Scottish Examination Board as well.
Mr Miller, who took up the SEB appointment on January 1, will hold both posts until 1998, and Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, has hinted strongly at a future merger between Scotvec, which accredits and awards vocational qualifications north of the border, and the SEB, which runs the secondary school examination system.
"This appointment underlines the closer cooperation between SEB and Scotvec as foreshadowed in the Government's Higher Still document. We are considering further moves in that direction, but before any changes are made there would be full consultation," Mr Lang said.
In Higher Still, the Scottish Office plans to integrate vocational and academic education under a unified curriculum and assessment system incorporating both Scotvec awards and the traditional higher education entrance qualifications of Highers.
Edinburgh University has strongly welcomed the broad approach of the reforms, which it says will encourage it to adopt a more flexible approach to accepting Highers in vocational subjects. But it warns that the traditional breadth of Scottish education must not be threatened. The Scottish Office wants to increase the number of teaching hours per Higher, and Edinburgh says it would oppose any attempt to reduce the number of Highers which pupils take.
The Scottish Office also wants to introduce a two-year Advanced Higher, which some educationists fear could become the entrance requirement for higher education, undermining the four-year degree. Edinburgh says the Advanced Higher cannot be seen as the only entrance requirement, and should give pupils a chance to continue the breadth of the secondary curriculum at university level rather than being a way of exempting them from a year of university study.