The Scottish Government has accused the country’s ancient Universities, including St Andrews, of putting up barriers to recruiting students from further education colleges who could feasibly be fast-tracked from their FE colleges into the third-year of a corresponding University course.
The statement came after the National Union of Students recently made the claim that a change in recruitment practice would encourage students from less well-off backgrounds to gain a degree by completing their training at University. Education Secretary Mark Russell gave further impetus to the view, describing the NUS as “utterly right”.
Many college students take higher national qualifications which are independently verified by the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework as equivalent to the first or the first two years of University study. Mr. Russell said that: “I think the norm should be that if you have gone through a HNC [Higher National Certificate] or HND [Higher National Diploma] you should go into third year of university.”
He did not comment on the defence from University leaders that differing teaching methods at University, particularly the emphasis on self-study and a less rigid structure, could potentially make it harder to gauge exactly what level of study students coming from FE Colleges would be equipped for.
Students’ Association President Patrick O’ Hare said: “I agree…that those students with a HND college qualification should ordinarily be allowed third-year entry into University courses, including at the ancient universities and the University of St Andrews”, but showed similar concern, saying that “there is an issue that very few of the courses at, say, Adam Smith College, find an equivalent at St Andrews.” O’ Hare plans to explore the possibility of improved entry for college students in the first meeting of the Widening Access policy group this month.
Earlier this year student leaders drew up a plan to boost Scotland’s higher education budget by £120 million, which was said could be used to fast-track 5000 college students into a University degree. A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland; the organisation that works for the Principals and Directors of Scotland’s 21 higher education institutions, of which the University of St Andrews is a member, said the number of fast-tracked college students had nearly doubled to 3,370 over the past three years.
The University of St Andrews states in an ‘Equality Statement’ displayed on their website that “The University of St Andrews is fully committed to respect and fair treatment for everyone, eliminating discrimination and actively promoting equality of opportunity and delivering fairness to all,” but was unavailable to clarify its position further.