4.49 In considering how our qualifications framework might become meaningful and real, we have considered at some length the interface with further education institutions and particularly with schools. We believe that advice and guidance about subject choices at school-level will become even more important in future and school careers' guidance staff should ensure that school students and their parents are familiar with the options for progression through the qualifications framework from an early age.
4.51 We believe that the future introduction of the Higher Still reforms may have two significant effects on higher education. First, it may herald an increase in student numbers by establishing an intermediary stepping stone to the Higher. As a result it is likely that Higher Still will, as intended, lead to more students qualifying for higher education entry, particularly into HNC and HND level programmes. A significant proportion of these students will choose to continue to develop their potential by progressing even further through the system.
4.52 Secondly, Higher Still may also in future have an impact on the curriculum and structure of higher education provision in Scotland. Although it is an unknown entity at the moment, we have noted that the architects of the Higher Still reforms do not intend that the Advanced Higher should be analogous or equivalent to the A level. However, the components of the education system in Scotland are intricately linked and we believe that where the subjects studied are relevant, the new Advanced Highers, aimed at providing for higher achievement, are liable to overlap to some extent with the first year of the higher education curriculum.
4.53 It is anticipated that approximately 10 per cent of the Fifth and Sixth Year (S5/S6) school population, or 20-25 per cent of the population currently entering higher education, will seek to attain two or three Advanced Highers when they are introduced.46 In considering the potential impact of Higher Still on higher education, we have noted that the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (COSHEP) has agreed in principle to recognise the Advanced Higher for entry purposes, where it aligns with the intended subjects of study, and is encouraging students to study for the qualification. We have also noted COSHEP's statement that 'Highers will continue to be used as the standard qualification for defining the basis of entry into higher education in Scotland'.47
4.54 We acknowledge the fact that the Higher will continue to be a major route to higher education. However, in the context of the implications for Scottish students of our recommendations about funding, and the reservations we have expressed below about the use of the Sixth Year (S6), we believe that the Scottish higher education system will need to adapt to take meaningful account of the possibly substantial minority of students who will choose to enter the higher education framework, through the Advanced Higher route.
4.55 With an increasing financial burden, many students will expect to be offered the opportunity to earn advanced standing. We agree with the Scottish Consultative Committee on the Curriculum (SCCC): 'it may be, of course, that a combination of economic pressure (from students and from Government) will combine with the pressures arising from a review of the educational purposes and nature of the undergraduate experience to alter these parameters'.48
4.57 The choices made by students in the early years of secondary school will become even more important and they will need to be supported to become more aware of the implications of those choices through familiarity with the routes available on the qualifications framework.
4.59 The A level curriculum is well-established and understood. Scottish higher education institutions should, therefore, act immediately to consider how advanced standing can be achieved in more cases. We consider this action to be important to maintain the culturally and economically important cross-border flow of students to Scotland from other parts of the UK. On the other hand, evidence suggests there are clear benefits to students of an A level education followed by a full four years of study leading to an honours degree and we believe that many students may still wish to follow this route.
The sixth year
4.61 The providers of higher education must become more and fully involved with other interested parties in order to achieve agreement about curriculum boundaries and fit. Higher education institutions must also undertake to provide clear guidance to students at strategic and local level about how the new qualifications will impact upon higher education entry requirements and fit within the qualifications framework.
so that both can be fitted meaningfully and usefully into the framework of qualifications.
Further education route