Scottish Higher results: university admissions hit record high

Older applicants drive growth as exam pass rate falls

August 9, 2016
Scotland map

The number of Scottish-domiciled applicants securing university places on Higher results day has hit a record high, despite a fall in the exam pass rate.

Ucas said that 28,290 Scottish applicants had been admitted to institutions across the UK as of 9 August, up 4.8 per cent on the same point last year.

This came despite a fall in the A to C pass rate for Higher exams, which were sat by 140,055 students across Scotland in May and June. The Scottish Qualifications Authority said this year’s pass rate was 77.2 per cent, down from 79.2 per cent in 2015, when the revamped exam was introduced for the first time.

Ucas said that the number of 18-year-old applicants winning places, 12,550, was almost identical to last year. The size of this population has shrunk year-on-year, however, meaning that the entry rate for school leavers has risen to a record high of 21.3 per cent.

The growth in admissions was therefore driven by older applicants, with 1,000 more Scottish applicants aged 20 or over winning a place this year compared with last year.

More Scottish applicants are expected to be placed at providers across the UK in coming weeks.

As of 9 August, Scottish universities had admitted 34,620 students, up 6 per cent year-on-year, with the proportion of Scottish students being admitted to these institutions rising by 4.6 per cent.

The most significant growth, however, was among European Union applicants. Scottish universities have admitted 3,850 students from the EU, up by 18.8 per cent year-on-year.

Ucas data show that the entry rate for Scottish 18-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds had increased from 8.2 per cent to 8.8 per cent. However, applicants from the most privileged backgrounds remain more than four times more likely to win a place, with an entry rate of 36.6 per cent.

Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of Ucas, described the figures as “an encouraging snapshot of Scottish higher education, particularly as a large majority of the country’s applicants are placed by this stage”.

John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for education, said it had been “another successful year for Scotland’s young people”.

“Today’s results show that Scotland’s learners continue to perform very well, with the second highest number of Higher passes on record,” Mr Swinney said.

The proportion of candidates passing the English higher fell year-on-year from 80.6 per cent to 78.8 per cent, the SQA said. However, the pass rate in the maths Higher increased from 70.8 per cent to 73.5 per cent.

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