Scottish student race to take places

High number of early acceptances could spell trouble for universities. Hannah Fearn writes

August 5, 2009

The rush of Scottish students racing to accept their university places following today’s publication of Scottish Higher results is sparking fears that some institutions may be forced to over-recruit.

Robin McAlpine, public affairs manager at Universities Scotland, said universities had seen an “early spike” in acceptances. “This is what you would expect because people have reduced options [during the global financial crisis]. A lot fewer people will be weighing up whether it is best to go to university or to take a job or traineeship.”

He added: “It looks as if there has been some degree of scrambling to accept.”

Once universities make an offer of a place, they are legally required to accept that student if he or she achieves the required entry grades. Universities including Edinburgh and Glasgow regularly make 100 firm offers to fill 80 places on a course, based on a calculated average rate of dropouts and deferrals.

But with early acceptance levels high, universities could be forced to take in more students than they have places for, which could leave them facing financial penalties from the Scottish Funding Council.

The extent of the problem for Scottish universities will become apparent next week.

Pass rates for the Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers have improved marginally this year, with the pass rate up by 2 per cent on 2008 for Advanced Higher candidates.

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