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Friday, 18 August, 2000, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Exams body meets deadline
University lecture theatre
Universities want to end the waiting for applicants
The Scottish Qualifications Authority has met its deadline for checking computer data relating to exam results.

Doubts had been voiced that the exams body would reach its target of validating the results by midnight on Thursday.

But the SQA confirmed that it had met the deadline with more than an hour to spare.

Letters will now be sent out on Friday morning to those students whose results are incomplete.

Missing grades

However, two Scottish universities announced on Thursday that they were refusing to wait any longer before offering places - despite not having complete exam results.

Aberdeen University and Napier University in Edinburgh said students with missing grades "had waited long enough" to have their places confirmed.

They moved ahead of the SQA's midnight deadline, which fell a week after all the results should have been sent out.

Aberdeen University senior vice-principal Professor Ian Macdonald said: "We still do not have a date from the Scottish Qualifications Authority when we will receive missing results.

"We have decided to make our decisions on the basis of the information available to us at this time, which includes their predicted exam results.

Aberdeen University
Aberdeen University: Pressing ahead
"It is unfair for these students to wait any longer."

Also in Aberdeen, the Robert Gordon University has decided to offer places to all applicants who attained the relevant grades based on the information already supplied by the SQA applicants this weekend. Other universities are following suit.

The distribution of A-level results in the rest of the UK signalled the start of the clearing process, which matches students with vacant university places.

BBC Scotland education correspondent Ken Macdonald said confirmation letters to nearly 150,000 entrants were not expected to arrive before next week.

Our correspondent added it remained unclear precisely what information would be available to candidates on Friday.

'Flexibility' needed

It is thought that in the worst case scenario the authority will only be able to give the number of incomplete or inaccurate results.

Ucas chief executive Tony Higgins said: "I fear that some students may lose out on the course of their choice.

"We don't know how many. It may be that all those who are waiting for their results get the grades they want and therefore they've got the course of their choice.

Galbraith and Morton
Sam Galbraith and SQA interim chief Bill Morton
"But it is also possible that some might lose out on what they really wanted to do."

The Scottish Executive has insisted that no-one with the right grades will be denied a university place but said they may have to be "flexible" in their choice of university and course.

Earlier statements by Education Minister Sam Galbraith in which he promised that no-one would be rejected because of the chaos, were said to have "reflected what he was being told at the time in a developing situation".

Scottish Conservatives' education spokesman Brian Monteith MSP has tabled a parliamentary motion about the inquiry into the fiasco ordered by Mr Galbraith.

He said: "Sam Galbraith must give exact details of the proposed committee of inquiry, otherwise it will be dismissed as yet another example of New Labour 'spin' to avoid the scrutiny that Scotland demands."

'Broken pledges'

The Scottish National Party's education spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon MSP said: "All I hear is pledge after pledge from Sam Galbraith, which are broken or ignored as soon as they are uttered.

"The latest broken pledge was that all pupils would know their results by the end of this week and now it transpires that they will not have written confirmation of their results until next week."

Anthony McClaran, deputy chief executive of Ucas, said it was vital that the SQA review process was completed by Thursday evening.

Caroline Brodie
Some pupils' results remain incomplete
"Clearing nowadays happens quite quickly, our official course vacancies list has already been advertised in the press and is available on our website," said Mr McClaran.

He added that about 15,000 Scottish students had already had their college and university places confirmed.

"We are now waiting for 2,800 incomplete results and as soon as we get those we will be able to confirm places," said Mr McClaran.

He made it clear that Ucas wanted to make sure that the "window of opportunity" for Scottish students was left open for as long as possible.

But he admitted that he could not predict how all universities and colleges would react to the situation. He said decisions would vary according to the subject and the institution involved.

Mr Galbraith is hoping that the SQA will be able to name the candidates affected, but this still leaves the huge task of informing them and their schools.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Simpson
"The authority admitted it had been a complete disaster"

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16 Aug 00 | Scotland
15 Aug 00 | Scotland
15 Aug 00 | Scotland
14 Aug 00 | Scotland
14 Aug 00 | Scotland
13 Aug 00 | Scotland
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