Students hoping to gain a place through clearing at a Scottish institution should expect a far tougher ride than those seeking a course south of the border. A bumper year for applications combined with a virtually static number of student places means clearing is expected to be low-key this year from the institutions' point of view, said Universities Scotland.
Meanwhile, a week ahead of results day, the Scottish Qualifications Authority has issued a stern rebuff to critics who had cast doubt on its readiness. Chief executive Bill Morton insisted that certificates would be accurate and on time this year, in stark contrast to the debacle of 12 months ago when thousands of candidates suffered missing, inaccurate or incomplete results.
The SQA said 135,000 candidates would receive their results on August 14, and Mr Morton insisted the organisation was in "good shape".
He said: "Staff have worked tremendously hard to deliver the results this year.
"We are under no illusions about the importance of maintaining a high level of performance as we move into this crucial period, and we remain firmly focused on delivering accurate certificates on time to everyone who sat exams this summer."
However, more than 2,000 individual results have been subject to special checks this year after new quality assurance procedures threw up anomalies.
Mr Morton said: "Work is continuing to ensure that the small number of cases we have identified can be addressed quickly. Where appropriate we are working with the centres involved to ensure the information we hold is accurate and matches their expectations of the result."
Ronnie Smith, chief executive of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said there was much second-guessing about whether the processing of results would run smoothly this year.
"The only people who truly know the state of affairs is the SQA itself and they are saying everything is OK. If it is not, there will be no hiding place for those responsible," he said.
A spokesman for Universities Scotland said there were doubts in the system about the SQA's ability to deliver. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said its officials were "cautiously optimistic, but a bit wary" since the SQA had changed the way it sent results to Ucas, resulting in "a few matching problems".