Wednesday, December 21, 2016

School-leavers paying the price of Scotland's free university tuition

Scottish school-leavers are now far less likely than their peers from south of the border to get a place at a university in Scotland, according to new figures that lay bare the impact of SNP ministers’ free tuition policy.

Institutions in Scotland have a government cap on the number of home students they can accept because Holyrood funds the places. However, they can take in as many students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland as they want — and charge them up to £36,000 for a four-year degree.

A new report by Ucas, the university admissions service, found that “applicants from England and Northern Ireland are around 15 per cent more likely to receive an offer from a Scottish provider than applicants from Scotland”.

The analysis, published today, shows that in 2016 the offer rate to Scottish applicants was 59.6 per cent, a drop on last year. The offer rate to applicants from England was 68.5 per cent, which was an increase on the previous recorded high of 66.9 per cent in 2015.

The report states: “Since 2015, offer rates by Scottish providers to English and Northern Irish applicants have been higher than offer rates to Scottish applicants. This contrasts to the period between 2008 and 2011, when applications from Scottish applicants were more likely to receive an offer than applications from English and Northern Irish applicants.”

The findings will reignite the row over the impact of free higher education. The SNP abolished the graduate endowment in 2008 and put the full burden for the cost of a degree on general taxation.

The cap on places will become even more important when universities are forced to make offers to students from the most deprived backgrounds with lower grades than their better-off peers. It raises the prospect of middle-class Scottish youngsters losing out on a degree because of their more affluent upbringing.

Responding to the report, Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman, said: “Once again we are seeing Scottish students losing out when it comes to being offered a place at university in Scotland.

“Despite having outstanding grades, many Scottish students are finding it increasingly difficult to get into universities because of the constraints applied via the capping policy.

“The SNP have been warned that their discriminatory higher education funding policy would lead to this, but they have so far failed to take any action to address it.”

Iain Gray, for Labour, said: “Because places for Scottish students are funded, they are capped. So, while universities have expanded their offer to students from elsewhere in the UK, they have not been able to do so for Scottish students because the SNP government has squeezed the funding available.

“Labour supports free tuition, but if we are to widen access to universities for more Scottish students then the Scottish government has to stop cutting university budgets and use the powers they now have to start increasing education funding.”

The report also shows that the entry rate for Scottish 18-year-olds from the most deprived areas is improving. It states that the entry rates from the least deprived areas are still 3.9 times as high as the entry rates from the most deprived areas — but this is an improvement on the 5.8 rate a decade ago.

Yesterday, the Scottish government said it would announce the identity of a new widening access tsar, who will be tasked with driving up the number of students from deprived backgrounds entering university, by the end of the year.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, had said that the role would be filled over the summer. In early September, the government said an appointment would be made “within weeks”.

The government said that the delayed appointment process was finally close to completion. The new person will manage an annual budget and publish an annual report on reducing inequality. A spokeswoman said: “Good progress is being made and we expect to make an announcement shortly. We remain firmly committed to ensuring that tuition is free for first-time Scottish and EU-domiciled undergraduate students.”


Transforming K-12 Education

Whatever direction the Trump administration takes K-12 education policy, one thing is certain: American schoolchildren won’t become the best in math and science without a major shake-up of the educational status quo. Two leading measures of educational achievement—the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Program for International Student Assessment—offer concrete evidence that recent large-scale efforts, including the introduction of Common Core, have fallen short of their goals, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.

“In 2015, compared to 35 developed countries, the U.S. ranked 19th in science, 20th in reading, and 31st in math,” Alger writes in The Beacon. Educational outcomes remain mediocre despite a huge increase in federal funding—more than $17 billion—for K-12 education since 2000.

To achieve world-class performance, the American educational system must learn the essential lesson of top-performers around the globe—namely, that “schools improve when they compete for students and their associated funding,” Alger writes. “If we’re serious about competing globally when it comes to academic performance, then we need to replace our top-down, one-size-fits all system with universal parental choice in education.”


Australia: James Ruse Agricultural High School tops the HSC for the 21st year running

The student body at James Ruse is almost entirely Asian.  They're smarter to start with and work hard as well

Selective school James Ruse Agricultural High School has taken out the first spot in the Higher School Certificate for the 21st consecutive year, with an extraordinary 73 per cent of exams taken at the school scoring in the highest band.

Perennial top 10 finishers Baulkham Hills in north-western Sydney came in second spot, while North Sydney Boys took out third, just pipping their neighbours North Sydney Girls.

Sydney Grammar was the top private school at No.6, while Cheltenham Girls was the highest ranked comprehensive public school in the top 100, coming in at No.53.

Within the top 20, independent girls school Wenona gained 17 places, Normanhurst Boys gained 14 places and Reddam House and Conservatorium both leapt nine places into this year's top 10.

The biggest falls in the top 20 this year went to PLC (Croydon), which plunged 16 places and Girraween, which dropped 12 places to fall out of the top 10, and Sydney Girls, which has historically come within the top five, but this year dropped 10 places, from third to 13th.

More than 67,000 students today received their individual marks in their Higher School Certificate, and a record 55,961 of them are eligible for an ATAR, which they will get tomorrow.

James Ruse school leader Justin Wu made the honour roll in five subjects. About 4 per cent of students did not meet the minimum standard and will not get their HSC this year.

About 80 per cent of students took a mathematics course, and 90 per cent took at least one STEM course.

Tom Alegounarias, the head of BOSTES, said the achievement of students receiving their HSC today was a positive counterpoint to the recent bad news around Australian student results in international sample tests like PISA and TIMSS.

"If you're a top achiever in the HSC you're regarded amongst the top achievers in the world, you will go direct from the HSC to places like Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge, Harvard," he said. "If you are outstanding in this credential, you are meeting the best standards in the world.

"That's why it's different to the sampling examinations, because there's no test effect, and everyone steps up to the HSC.

"You'll remember from your own experience, as do I, that you may have been uneven in your attentiveness between Years 7 and 9 and 10, but when you cross that line at the beginning of year 11, you know this is serious, you've got the senior uniform on and you're ready to show what you can do."


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