Scottish education minister Brian Wilson has said that students with the proposed Advanced Highers should be treated like A-level entrants who are allowed to skip part of a degree course.
Mr Wilson was speaking after a report by the Scottish Qualifications Authority on the standard of Higher Still qualifications, which will be introduced from 1999. The first pupils taking Advanced Higher courses will complete them in summer 2001.
The report said that equating two A levels to three Highers was "crude and misleading", and a new comparator was needed.
Higher Still is intended to maintain the breadth of Scottish education while making "enhanced provision" for pupils who wish to study in more depth in the sixth year. A levels generally demand broader, more rigorous study than traditional Highers, but the new Highers followed by Advanced Highers will also be demanding.
Mr Wilson said: "Where credit is offered for A levels, we expect it to apply equally to the Advanced Higher."
Mr Wilson is keen to see more students studying for only three years rather than the traditional four-year honours degree, either through three-year degrees or direct entry into second year.
But he told a Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals' conference on Higher Still: "This is not a master plan to undermine four-year degrees."
Ronald Crawford, Coshep secretary, said: "The government is now owning up that the Advanced Higher is being regarded as a proxy for A levels and it expects institutions will so regard it."