Scottish Highers results: more students secure university places

Three per cent increase in enrolment driven by older age groups as exam results released

August 4, 2015
Scotland map

The number of Scottish-domiciled students securing university places at the start of Higher results day has increased by 3 per cent year-on-year, with 24,800 learners being accepted.

Ucas said that most of the growth came from older age groups, with a 600-strong (7 per cent) rise in the number of Scottish applicants aged 20 and over having their entry to higher education confirmed.

The number of 18-year-old Scottish applicants placed by midnight, 12,180, is almost identical to last year. However, since the size of the 18-year-old population has decreased by 2 per cent this year, the entry rate for this age group has increased slightly.

All but 800 of the students have been placed at a Scottish university or college.

Universities Scotland was “delighted to see such high levels of achievement from pupils”, according to Alistair Sim, its director.

“Pupils, teachers and parents can all take pride in this strong performance in what is a great day for Scottish education,” he said. “For those whose exam results are not what they expected, whether because they missed out on grades or did better than expected, there is still the possibility of entry to university this year through clearing.”

Overall recruitment to higher education courses at Scottish universities and colleges as of midnight stood at 30,280, up 1 per cent year-on-year, Ucas said. However, the number of acceptances from the European Union decreased by 10 per cent, to 3,130.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority show that the A-C grade pass rate for new Higher exams that were offered for the first time this year was 79.2 per cent, compared with last year’s figure of 77.1 per cent for old Highers.

For this year only schools had a choice of whether to offer the new or old version of the qualifications, and the A-C pass rate for the old exams this year was 76.7 per cent.

The SQA admitted that the new Higher maths exam was too difficult, stating that “the assessment proved to be more demanding than intended”.

The grade boundaries were reduced to prevent students being disadvantaged, a spokesman said. Subsequently the A-C pass rate for the new Higher was 70.8 per cent but this was still lower than the 73.1 per cent pass rate for students taking the old version.

Angela Constance, the Scottish education secretary, said that it was “another strong performance by Scotland’s young people”.

“Despite concerns about the new Higher maths exam, it’s clear that the system worked, that candidates have been treated fairly, and that standards have been maintained,” Ms Constance said. “The checks and balances in place ensure that students who would have gained a particular grade in a qualification in any previous year will still have done so at the same grade this year.”

Overall, students achieved a record 156,000 Higher passes, up 5.5 per cent on 2014.

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