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English pupils benefit from exams mix-up


TENS of thousands of teenagers had their university offers put on hold yesterday amid a crisis over wrongly graded Higher examination certificates. All but two British universities halted admissions for Scottish pupils, pending reassessment of their exam results. And English, Welsh and Irish children will gain an advantage in the university clearing process after the publication of A-level results on Thursday, since the revised Scottish grades are unlikely to have been posted by then.

Almost one in ten Higher exam certificates could have the wrong results, it emerged yesterday after emergency talks between Ucas, the university admissions service, and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. All 147,000 Higher and Standard grades are being checked and Ucas said it was awaiting confirmation of the qualifications of 2,850 Higher exam pupils among the 35,000 Scots who have applied to university this year. Most of the queries related to incomplete certificates, where qualifications were missing, casting doubt on grades.

Aberdeen and Glasgow universities are continuing to process applications on the basis of the original results because admissions officers were confident that they knew enough about candidates to offer places. However, other universities were expected to follow Ucas's advice and put admissions on hold.

The reassessed results are not expected to be ready to post to schools before Thursday evening - hours after students across the rest of the United Kingdon will have received their A-level results - and Tony Higgins, the Ucas chief executive, said that would put Scottish pupils at a disadvantage in the scramble to find vacancies through the university clearing system.

"If there is any further delay, Scottish students may begin to become disadvantaged because those wanting to use the clearing system may find that a lot of places have been filled," he said.

Even if the confusion were sorted out by Thursday, hundreds of Scottish students could still find that their rivals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland got first pick of the remaining vacancies.

Dr Higgins said: "Many candidates start ringing universities as soon as they see that they will be in clearing. Scottish students who do that may not be able to get the information that their English counterparts can."

The SQA has appointed Bill Morton, from Scottish Enterprise, as its interim chief executive to replace Ron Tuck, who resigned on Saturday.

-- Doris (, August 15, 2000

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