With SQA exam results just around the corner (Tuesday 6 August), there’s never been a better time to emphasise to young people, their parents, guardians, teachers and all others that influence them, that College is a great option for getting to where they want to go. Gone are the days when going to university, straight from school, was the only way to secure a great career with a higher education qualification.
Just like everything else in life, there’s been an explosion of choices - from the range of television and home entertainment channels we watch to the range of food products on the supermarket shelves - we are confronted with choices every day and it’s the same, thanks goodness, when it comes to education.
I’m delighted to be playing my part in widening those choices for young people and adults in Fife and flying the flag for articulation routes – this means that students attending Fife College who achieve their HNC/HND qualification over one or two years, providing they achieve the necessary grades, progress directly into year two or three of a degree course.
For some of our students that can also mean staying at Fife College to complete their full degree or honours degree. Our close partnership with Abertay University supports students to study their degree in the Fife College University Hub, Dunfermline in subject areas such as Business, Accounting, Computing and Creative Industries.
Last academic session we had over 180 students studying on these degree programmes, studying full or part-time. From September, we will also be offering two new degree programmes, an innovative top-up degree for those in employment covering Business and Enterprise with our partner Edinburgh Napier University and for our students progressing from HND Social Sciences an on-campus delivery model of the Open University BA(Hons) Social Sciences degree.
At Fife College we have tripled our formal articulation routes for Higher National Certificate/Diploma study on to degree courses in the last year - up from 84 to 255, one of the highest of any college in Scotland. All our curriculum areas have at least one articulation route in place for every HND course. We currently have articulation routes to degree study with 15 universities throughout the UK.
Although 33% of school leavers in Scotland put in an application for university this year, a BBC report released this month confirmed that there were 610 fewer university applications compared to 2018.
One of our recent advertising campaign messages, ‘What if I told You…There’s More Than One Way to Get a Degree’ sends out an important message, which is vital if we are to help promote choice and options for those entering into further and higher education, especially if you don’t get the exam results you need to go directly to university, can’t afford to leave home to study or think university life is not for you.
So what else are we doing to promote choice? We are finding new ways to get our message out there through new partnerships and links with schools. Our new partnership to create First Chances Fife is a perfect example of this, where we have joined a long established partnership between the University of St Andrews and The Robertson Trust, to help break down barriers to learning for pupils in Fife.
The University of St Andrews and ourselves were delighted to recently receive £567,000 of funding from The Robertson Trust to expand the programme, which focuses on raising the aspirations and attainment of school pupils from P7 to S6. This will allow the programme to be rolled out to an increased number of schools, enabling more young people, who may face barriers to learning and progression, to benefit from the initiative.
It was great to share our experience of the programme with colleagues from colleges across Scotland at the recent College Expo19 event, showcasing Fife College as a leader in its field with regards to this partnership work and widening opportunities.
With many school rolls continuing to fall, more pupils staying on at school to S5 or S6 and universities reviewing their entrance criteria, it’s a challenging time for colleges.
We receive a lot less funding than schools and universities yet we’re just as important and successful at educating and transforming people’s lives - we need to be seen as a real first choice, not plan B.
In April, a report from the Scottish Funding Council showed that more than a quarter of HNC/HND articulating students began a first degree course at a Scottish university (26.1%).
Fife College is committed to seeing this figure rise and to promoting choices so that many more people can see the benefits of the college to university route, improving choices and chances for all.