Scottish students are finding it increasingly difficult to secure a place at Scottish universities, official data has shown, as the clearing system allegedly displays bias towards English and international applicants.
UCAS, the higher education admissions service, has released figures which show the number of young Scots missing out on Scottish university places has almost doubled over the past ten years.
Although the data indicates that the number of Scottish students securing a place has increased by 4 per cent, the overall number of Scottish students who failed to get in to university has risen from 8,625 in 2006 to 16,520 in 2016.
Audit Scotland, an organisation which monitors public spending, also found that it was becoming more difficult for Scottish students to get a place at university after releasing its first major report on higher education in July.
The report showed that although the Scottish Government subsidise university fees for Scottish students with 1.7 billion pounds worth of funding, higher education institutions in Scotland were found to rely heavily on revenue generated from international students and those from the rest of the UK.
Undergraduates from England, Wales and Northern Ireland provide universities with income of up to £9,000 a year per student, while applicants from outside the EU can provide up to £47,200 a year.
The report also suggested a link between university’s reliance on fee-paying applicants and the increase in Scots missing out on university places.
In a press release, Audit Scotland said that the country’s higher education sector would face “major challenges” in the coming years, including reductions in government funding and “risks to universities’ ability to continue increasing income from other sources”.
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said that the Scottish Government would have to take steps to prepare for the challenges the higher education sector is facing.
Speaking to the BBC, Gardner said: “Given the growing pressures on public finances, the Scottish Government must be clear about its priorities for higher education and how it will target public funding to support those aims.”
“It also needs to work with the Scottish Funding Council and universities to plan for addressing the challenges ahead.”
Audit Scotland’s review of the higher education sector in Scotland indicated that the Scottish Government had failed to raise the cap on the number of Scottish applicants in line with the increasing number of applications over the past decade leading to the surge of young people losing out on their university place.
UCAS statistics show that the number of places given to Scottish students increased by only 7 per cent despite the number of applications rising by 15 per cent.
Alastair Sim, the director of Universities Scotland, defended the integrity of the administrations of Scottish universities, telling The Telegraph that the decrease in Scottish students being offered university places is not due to the lower fees Scottish students pay but the amount of competition for places that Scottish universities experience.
He said: “[The evidence from Audit Scotland is] not because universities want to limit opportunities but because the number of well-qualified applicants far outnumbers the strict controls on the number of funded places that universities can fill.”
He also told The Telegraph that universities would be happy to talk with ministers about increasing the quota “to ensure we are giving opportunities to bright applicants from diverse backgrounds with the potential to do very well at university.”
Professor Peter Downes, convener of Universities Scotland, said to the BBC that it was clear from the Audit Scotland’s report that Scottish higher education was facing funding pressures.
He said that these pressures were “causing instability” and “serious levels of risk in almost every aspect of universities’ business.”
“The continued sustainability of Scotland’s universities cannot be in question. We want to work closely with the Scottish Government, Funding Council and other stakeholders to address these challenges.”
“We need to start from the same place; that higher education funding should be sustainable and competitive”, Downes stated.