SQA results day 2021

It appears harder to get a good Higher or Advance Higher grade in Scotland this year than ever before.

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

Here’s the results plot – grades A-C at the top, and grade A at the bottom.

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Remember we are dealing with advanced Highers (usually taken aged 18) at SCQF level 7 as well as Highers (usually taken aged 17) at SCQF level 6. Both are used in university entry.

Though in many Higher courses – maths, English, business, for example – A grades have become more common, attention has been focused on the decline in the proportion of candidates achieving grades A-C. For example, this proportion was 85 per cent in biology in 2020, and just 78 per cent today – for chemistry these proportions are 88 and 81 per cent respectively.

The pattern of a small rise in A grades against a decline in grades A-C is also visible at a lower intensity in Advanced Highers – in maths 89 per cent got grades A-C last year, 87 per cent this year.

A problem?

Although Scotland is very much a seperate system, with the overwhelming majority of young people domiciled in Scotland going on to study in Scotland, there disparity in grade trends between Scotland and the rest of the UK will not be welcomed by those looking to study elsewhere. But 250 applicants from Scotland currently hold an offer at an English provider (up from 240 this time last year and 190 the year before), and 1,450 have a place confirmed (up from 1,200 last year and 1,350 in 2019).

Meanwhile, there’s a 24 per cent year on year rise in the number of applicants from England with a place in Scotland. The differences between funding systems mean that Scottish applicants will not lose out because of this, but some on popular courses may join a larger-than-expected cohort with all the capacity issues that may bring.




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