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Mapping Scotland’s learning pathways

City of Glasgow College, Riverside Campus

15 Dec 2020

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has published a new statistical report looking at student transitions from college to university. The publication focusses on articulation, the mechanism which enables college students to join a university degree course at the start of its second or third year.

Recent advances in SFC’s development of a national database for articulation have opened up new and more nuanced ways of understanding how the process works.

For the first time analysts have been able to study two distinct groups. One group covers a wider definition of articulation and includes a wider spectrum of qualifications, as well as students moving between the higher education courses provided by the University of the Highlands and Islands and SRUC. The second group only comprises Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma qualifications and excludes internal movements within institutions that provide both further and higher education courses.

According to the report’s authors, widening the discussion in this way opens the door to a more complete understanding of the learning pathways available to students wishing to progress without repeating any levels of learning.

Although the report effectively sets a new baseline for analysing articulation, it also provides an annual comparison of the proportion of students living in Scotland who enter a university degree course from HNC/HND at college. This has remained at between 21 to just less than 23 per cent since 2014-15 and has been a consistent contributor to progress in widening access.

Whilst the growth in acceptances of a university place from people living in Scotland’s most deprived areas (including a 5% increase for 2020-21) has helped to place Scotland effectively two years ahead of its widening access targets, articulation has also played an important part. Its proportional contribution has held steady despite more disadvantaged students choosing direct entry to university as their route to a degree.

Commenting on the significance of today’s report, SFC’s Director of Policy, Insight & Analytics, Martin Boyle said:

“Improving pathways from college to university is one of the ways in which we can expand access to higher education and it’s important that our institutions continue to work together so that learners receive credit for prior learning where appropriate. Thanks to productive collaboration we now have a clearer and more detailed picture about pathways to a university degree. The findings of today’s report will feed into our Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability, and further develop our thinking about more efficient pathways for learners.”

Read the full Articulation from Scottish Colleges to Scottish Universities 2014-15 to 2018-19 report.