Scots heading for exam fiasco encore

June 1, 2001

University admissions officers fear a fresh Scottish examination results crisis in August following the Scottish Qualifications Authority's unexpected reinterpretation of the Data Protection Act.

Scottish applicants going directly through the clearing system face delays because the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service will not have been able to process their results and confirm these to institutions. Candidates face having to provide institutions with proof of results themselves.

Other applicants who have made mistakes in filling in their candidate number on the Ucas form could also face problems.

Until now, examination boards have sent results to Ucas before they are published. This enables Ucas to confirm whether applicants have met entrance requirements, and also to put results on clearing entry forms. Ucas has special status under the data protection legislation, allowing it to process personal data.

But the SQA has said it has received advice from the government's information commissioner that the release of information risked breaking one of the principles of the Data Protection Act.

The SQA said that it expects Ucas to ask for individual results on the basis of candidates' reference numbers.

This means that if applicants have mistakenly transposed digits, the SQA will have to contact Ucas for further information such as name and date of birth to allow the results to be matched.

Universities Scotland has written to the SQA urging it to tackle the problem.

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