Universities study up on new National Qualifications

160514 National Quals - Uni Conference

SQA chief executive, Dr Janet Brown is joined by Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Schools, Science and Scotland’s Languages and Dr James Miller, Director of The Open University in Scotland


The importance of continued collaboration and communication will be the key focus at a conference of university recruitment, admissions and widening participation staff, organised by SQAin Glasgow today (Friday 16 May).

More than 100 higher education delegates, representing all of Scotland’s higher education institutions, will come together to hear from a range of speakers, including Dr Janet Brown, SQA Chief Executive and Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Schools, Science and Scotland’s languages, on how the new national qualifications that support Curriculum for Excellence have been developed in partnership with universities.

The event will also outline the strengths of Scotland’s new Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications. The first diet of the new Highers takes place in May 2015 with courses due to begin in August this year. The first diet of the new Advanced Highers will take place in May 2016.

Over the course of this week, SQA have also held a number of subject events for academic staff in the university and college sectors. These together with today’s conference for recruitment, admissions and widening participation staff, will help prepare the higher education sector for receiving learners who have achieved the new qualifications.

Today’s conference includes discussions on the role of higher education institutions in the qualifications development process, what impact the new qualifications will have on university admissions and will provide examples of partnership working between schools and universities in the delivery of qualifications, such as Advanced Highers and the Scottish Baccalaureate.

Dr Janet Brown, SQA Chief Executive, said "As securing a place at university becomes more competitive, the value of qualifications increases in line with more demanding entry requirements. The new qualifications at Higher and Advanced Higher, while built on existing strengths, aim to develop subject based skills, knowledge and understanding and generic skills, like higher order thinking, research and analytical skills, which will equip learners for progression into further study and employment.

“The Higher Education sector has made a significant contribution to the development of the new qualifications, including serving on many of the individual subject development teams. I want to thank them for that commitment. Giving their expertise and insight has helped to ensure that learners taking the new qualifications will be appropriately challenged and be given the opportunity to develop the wide range of higher order skills needed to progress into higher education.”

Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Schools, Science and Scotland’s Languages, said: “The Curriculum for Excellence has been designed to inspire achievement at the highest levels and has been welcomed by Scottish universities. Universities have reflected CfE in their admissions policies, providing clarity and reassurance for CfE students.

“We expect to produce learners with the skills, knowledge and independence needed to succeed in higher education and beyond. Our aspirations for young people sit well with the graduate attributes identified by the HE sector.

“We have been engaging with universities across the UK to promote understanding of how teaching and learning is being transformed in Scotland's schools. The HE sector in Scotland has been closely engaged with CfE for many years and we continue to work with UCAS, Universities Scotland, QAA Scotland and others to help ensure a smooth transition for learners from schools into higher education.”

Dr Kirsty Conlon, Head of Learning and Teaching and Widening Access Policy at Universities Scotland, said “Universities have been working hard with schools, teachers, parents and Government on the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence for many years now to ensure that transitions into higher education are delivered as smoothly as possible; the new qualifications are obviously a vital part of that.

“Curriculum for Excellence is a bold change and one that has the potential to map very well to learning at university with a greater multidisciplinary approach and a focus on confident learners and global citizens. However, it will be important to keep working closely together to ensure the transitions knit well together in practice as well as theory.”

Professor Martin Hendry, Head of School and Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow and member of the SQA Physics Qualifications Design Team, said “I believe it has been very important for the University sector to be fully involved in the design of the new qualifications, to ensure that our young people develop the appropriate skills to prepare them for further study.”