A different route into university

Not everybody starts an undergraduate degree at university directly from school. In 2014-15, nearly 9,000 people entered university in Scotland after completing a Higher National (HN) qualification at college, and almost 5,000 of them used this credit to accelerate their journey to graduation. 

This option, known as ‘articulation’, means that some students with a Higher National Certificate (HNC) can enter directly into the second year of a degree programme, whilst some students with an HND can move straight into second or third year, depending on their circumstances.

While not all HN students want to go to university, we want to ensure that those who do get full credit for their previous learning wherever possible. We have recently set up the ‘National Articulation Forum’ with Colleges Scotland to consider how we can continue to build on these pathways, and how we can improve awareness of these opportunities amongst learner and their advisers.

Articulation hubs

Scotland’s universities work collaboratively with each other and with college partners to deliver six regional articulation hubs to help support learners moving from college to university and to expand the number of opportunities for them to do so.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has funded the six hubs since 2007; five of which are regional and one of which is led by the Open University in Scotland with no geographical boundaries. Since hubs were introduced, the number of articulating students has increased by almost 85 per cent.
Each articulation hub is hosted by a lead institution. The articulation hubs and their respective lead institutions are:

  • North East (led by Robert Gordon University)
  • Tayside and Fife (led by Abertay University)
  • Edinburgh and Lothians (led by Edinburgh Napier University)
  • Greater Glasgow (led by Glasgow Caledonian University)
  • South West (led by the University of the West of Scotland)

Learning and teaching models

Learning, teaching and assessment regimes often vary significantly between further and higher education institutions, so it is vital that colleges and universities work together to support students and make sure they are well prepared to make the transition into higher education.

Queen Margaret University, for example, works closely with local colleges throughout the year to provide a comprehensive programme of support for articulating students. The engagement begins early in the year with a series of visits to Higher National (HN) classes in colleges to provide advice on articulation routes and support in preparing UCAS applications. Later in the year, subject-specific visits to the University are arranged to give students more information about their chosen courses and the chance to meet academic staff and current students. There are also academic outreach opportunities, including workshops with library staff on topics such as referencing. The support programme culminates with a week-long induction programme for articulating students which has been designed as a response to feedback from entrants over a number of years.

A widely used model for institutions involved in articulation is to give HN students the status of “associate students” from day one – allowing them access to the university’s library and other facilities whilst studying at college. In 2014/15, more than 1,000 HN students have “associate student” status with universities across Scotland.

The University of Stirling’s Twogether model is a great example of how “associate” status works to benefit learners. Twogether are innovative education and skills programmes in applied biological sciences and heritage and conservation that go beyond traditional 2+2 articulation arrangements. Both degree programmes are wholly integrated; jointly designed, developed and delivered by the college, university and industrial partners. Students are enrolled as college and university students and have undergraduate student ID cards giving them full access to all online and onsite facilities that any other undergraduate student of the University of Stirling would have during the first two years of classes on the college campus. Throughout the first two years, at college, students are encouraged to engage with university life in every way possible; from joining clubs and societies at the University, to signing up as members of the Student Union and sports centre.

Case Study: Shujaat Khan

UWS Civil Engineering graduate Shujaat Khan is, quite literally, helping to shape the world around us. “UWS gave me some great opportunities.  Whilst studying there, I went to Russia and China and took on a work placement. To have all that experience in two years really made me stand out.”

Shujaat left school without many qualifications. Following a few years working in the building industry he decided to go back to college. He started studying Highers, but wanted to go further so he started on an HNC and then HND in Engineering at Glasgow Kelvin College. Shujaat then secured direct entry to third year at UWS, studying BEng Hons Civil Engineering. Since graduating he has embarked on a career with global engineering giant AECOM and. is already working on some of the biggest public and private sector developments in Scotland.

Shujaat has taken part in FE/HE Subject Liaison meetings hosted by UWS to continue discussions around articulation routes, curriculum matching with the student voice being an integral part of this process.

Curriculum matching and pathway development between FE Colleges and UWS continues to flourish. 62 out of the 64 undergraduate degree programmes offered at UWS Scottish campuses allow articulation (HNC to level 8 and HND to level 9) with one third of UWS student population coming from college.

Case Study: College Connect

Glasgow Caledonian University’s College Connect Strategy launched in 2013 heralds a new development for the University and its relationship with its partner colleges.

The central aim of College Connect is to enhance the student experience of articulation and to achieve an increase in the in the numbers of students recruited through articulation. College students can use the online pathfinder tool for information on available courses at the University.

The College Connect Academy offers students an exciting programme of activities designed to help with the transition from college to university, including: UCAS and Transition Support Workshops, open days, masterclasses, online learning resources, student social activities, induction events and mentoring support.

Further reading

Key Facts:

  • In 2014-15, 8.864 Scottish-domiciled students entered university in Scotland with a HN qualification. 4,007 (47.8%) received full credit for their HN, and 4,869 (58.1%) received full or partial credit.
  • The number of students articulating from college with full credit increased by over 1,000 (36.7%) between 2009/10 and 2014/15 – from 2,931 to 4,007.
  • 21.4% of students who articualte with full credit are from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland (as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation).
  • Over a third of articulating students choose to study a degree in a different subject area from their HN qualification. In 2014/15, half of those who did not receive full credit were moving into a different subject area.