The college-to-university route strengthens, with record numbers of students given full credit for their college study

New figures published by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) today set out a positive picture about the extent of collaboration between colleges and university to support learners to seamlessly progress from Higher National qualifications direct into a degree at university.

Known as “articulation”, this route can support widening access and where possible, it reduces the total number of years a learner needs to study to gain a degree by recognising where prior achievement of an HNC or HND enables a student to enter university direct into the second or even third year of university study.

Key figures from the SFC data include:

  • The number of college leavers with Higher National qualifications going into university is the highest in four years (since 2014/15) and this group of entrants now accounts for 26% of all Scottish-domiciled entrants to first degrees at university.
  • There was an 8% increase in the number of all Higher National qualifiers getting full credit on entering university in 2017/18 compared to the year before, which meant an extra 299 students progressed past the first year or the first two years of university (depending on HNC/HND qualification).
  • For students progressing to university with Higher National Diplomas, 64.3% now receive full credit for their qualification and a total of 82% received full or partial credit in 2017/18.
  • Of the entrants to university from the 20% most deprived backgrounds (SIMD20), 41.8% arrived via an articulation route having done an HNC or HND in 2017/18.*

Commenting on the figures, Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“Today’s figures show there are more opportunities than ever before for college students who want to go on to do a degree at university through the fastest route possible. In the last year alone an extra 299 students with Higher Nationals got full credit for their qualification and started direct into the second or third year at university. That’s an increase of eight percentage points in just one year and takes the total number of students entering university this way to over 4,000.

 “Students doing HNDs now have a very strong prospect of getting full or partial credit for their qualifications if they go onto university. Of those students now in university, having articulated from college, 64% received full credit and started direct in the third year of their degree, and a total of 82% received full or partial credit.

 “It takes a lot of work to get these pathways between college and university working well for students as Higher Nationals and Degrees weren’t designed to go together. The subject fit has to be right and the support has to be there to help the student make the transition between what can be very different learning environments. There’s some exciting examples of this working really well but it’s important that the ambition to do more, doesn’t mean a compromise in doing it well.”

Today’s data is the first articulation data published by the SFC for at least two years, following the creation of a new National Articulation Data Dashboard, which aims to give colleges, universities and others much improved access and means to interpret the data. In addition to what the data show, this development is important in its own right. Universities Scotland called for a resource of this kind back in 2017, in our Working to Widen Access report, in order to make the data more accessible to colleges and universities, to support their work in driving articulation forward.

Commenting on the launch of the new National Articulation Data Dashboard, Professor Andrea Nolan said:

“We’re delighted that there’s now a National Articulation Data Dashboard for universities and colleges to work with. It’s really important to have access to the data, to understand what it tells us and use it to make decisions going forward. It’s been a long wait for the new resource but this marks an exciting new chapter for articulation from college into university.”


  • The Scottish Funding Council report, Articulation from Scottish Colleges to Scottish Universities 2017-2018, was published on 230 April 2019.
  • This is the first report on articulation data from the Scottish Funding Council since the creation of the National Articulation Data (NAD) Dashboard.
  • It is important to note that some articulation from college into university is not captured in this data set. Data for the University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland’s Rural College is likely to be under-represented given that these institutions offer HNC, HND qualifications with their own transition pathways into first degrees (without changing institution) and the Open University in Scotland is not fully captured  in this data set.
  • The National Articulation Forum was created in 2018 as a joint enterprise between Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland. Its focus is to examine how to offer more students full credit when moving between college and university. Professor Seaton is the Co-Chair, representing universities with Liz McIntyre, Principal and Chief Executive of North East Scotland College, co-chairing for the college sector.
  • Definitions: “advanced standing” is the official term when full credit can be given for a HNC/HND into university meaning entry into year two with an HNC and year three with an HND. “advanced progression” is the official term when partial credit is given for an HND, which means the student would enter into the second year of a degree.
  • * the 2017/18 figure of 41.8% is actually down from 42.3% in 2016/17 which probably reflects universities’ other work to widen access to people living in SIMD20 neighbourhoods directly from school and other routes.