Beyond the Senior Phase (2012)

University Engagement with Curriculum for Excellence

This report presents a clear set of recommendations for action, on the part of universities and of the Scottish Government and its agencies, to implement clear and constructive policies and practices in the wake of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). This will ensure that all learners going through the ‘senior phase’ of education in Scotland, no matter what their route, will have a fair and equal chance of progressing to higher education.

In 2011, Universities Scotland led a project to ensure universities were engaged with the development of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the associated Learner Journeys of young people moving towards and into the higher education sector.

This work was overseen by a Task Group appointed by the Universities Scotland Learning and Teaching Committee with the remit to:

  • Take evidence on the different learner journeys developing in the Senior Phase as they will affect universities
  • Provide expert advice on the implications of the greater flexibility inherent in CfE and the New National Qualifications
  • Provide expert advice on the implications of this for universities, including admissions policies and progression routes into university

This report is presented in two main parts:

  • Part One is on universities’ changing responsibilities as CfE and the new national qualifications develop. From basic policies for fairness in admission practices, this part of the report moves to look at how learner journeys for progression to degree-level work are developing and the state of readiness in universities as they prepare to make changes in response to such developments.
  • The second half of Part One is devoted to recommendations on how universities should take action to address such matters as admissions policies and young people’s progression routes to degree level work, learner journeys and potential flexible pathways, implications for learning, teaching and assessment, and the duplication of provision at SCQF Level 7.
  • Part Two contains the main body of information to facilitate universities’ understanding of CfE, its implementation and qualifications. This includes discussion of the background and principles underpinning CfE, its structure and stage of development, and features of its implementation with illustration from some practice in schools. A timetable for the introduction of, and details about, the qualifications are also provided.

We are grateful to the Scottish Government for the funding to support this piece of work.

Delivering what parents and school leaders need

“Schools’ leaders are keen to understand how universities will respond to Curriculum for Excellence in order to be able to give sound advice to pupils. It is for these reasons that the publication of this report is both timely and necessary. Most significantly, in its central recommendations, this report helps to deliver what parents and school leaders have been asking for. University leaders affirm that they continue to be committed to fair admissions policies and that these will allow for the equal consideration of candidates who possess the necessary knowledge and skills base irrespective of what routes they may have taken through the Senior Phase (S4 to S6) of Curriculum for Excellence. To implement this, university principals commit themselves to a review of admissions policy and practice within each of their institutions, to ensure that they will be able to give fair and equal consideration to candidates who have followed diverse routes to qualification through the Senior Phase.”

– Professor Grant Jarvie, Chair of the report’s working group


“[…] there is a principled commitment to recognise the potentially wide ranging pathways that students will follow as they make their way into HE and the recognition that admissions policies need to reflect fairly that diversity. This promise on the part of Scottish universities will be hugely welcomed by School leaders who have been increasingly concerned about the future opportunities for their students. With this kind of commitment to collaboration and communication on the part of schools, universities, colleges, and the Scottish Government, the prospects of Scotland’s young people as they move to future study should be assured.”

– Ken Cunningham CBE FRSA, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland

Key Points:

  • Fair and equal consideration to candidates who possess the necessary knowledge and qualifications, irrespective of the route they have taken through the senior phase.
  • CfE means no ‘normal’ way for pupils in the senior phase to acquire their qualifications.
  • Beyond the Senior Phase contains a compendium of resources for university staff seeking information about CfE


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