By Bob Duncan
A record number of young Scots will go to university in Scotland this year according to official figures. With thousands more applications still to be processed, the rise is in contrast to numbers across the rest of the UK which show student acceptances down sharply.
The figures, released by UCAS on Higher Results day, show that 22,292 Scots pupils have been accepted to Scottish universities following this year’s best ever exam results. This is an increase of 3.1 per cent on last year, with a further 3,100 applications still being processed, with more students eligible for the UCAS Clearing system.
A total of 35,781 pupils have been accepted to Scottish institutions to date, up by 244 from this time last year. Meanwhile, applications to institutions in the rest of the UK are down by almost 8%, from 349,112 at the same admission stage in 2011 to 322,134 this year.
The 13,489 extra admissions to Scottish institutions are comprised of pupils from the rest of the UK who have now received their A-level exam results, international students and a number of additional Scottish students who have been accepted since last week.
A Scottish Government spokesman said the total number of students accepted to Scottish institutions for next term will not become clear until the clearing and appeals process has concluded. UCAS said a full statistical analysis of admissions revealing country of origin and other information will be published later this year.
The Scottish government also said the numbers undermined claims that some fee-paying students from outwith Scotland were being awarded places at the expense of Scottish applicants.
Scottish students are exempt from tuition fees at Scottish institutions. The Scottish Government is trying to find a way around European Union regulations which compel Scottish taxpayers to pay tuition fees for EU students studying in Scotland as well. However, the regulations mandate that students from the rest of UK have to pay fees to study in Scotland.
All students studying at institutions in the rest of the UK pay fees of up to £9,000 per year, but Welsh students pay discounted fees thanks to a grant from the Welsh Assembly.
In addition to the steps being taken to introduce widening access measures within legislation, the Scottish Government has provided, through the Scottish Funding Council, an additional 1,000 funded places at the new University of the Highlands and Islands and a further 50 at Crichton Campus in Dumfries.
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “The case for keeping education free in Scotland has been proven beyond doubt. This year we have had the highest achieving pupils sitting Highers and the highest number of young people secure their preferred university place since records began.
“The figures tell their own story. But it is not just about numbers, it’s about the students themselves. We want to ensure every Scottish school leaver has the best opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential.
“Scotland is the only country in the UK to ensure young people, our workforce of the future, can go to university based on ability, not the ability to pay.
“We are also the only country in the UK with an increase in the number of total acceptances – compared to a significant decrease of 8 per cent in England.
“And Scotland is the only place in the UK where every young person aged 16 to 19 is guaranteed a place in training or education.”