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Articulation and equality

Understanding how different articulation students progress can help you ensure your college or higher education institution (HEI) is advancing equality of opportunity for students whatever their protected characteristic.

Scottish colleges and higher education institutions (HEIs) have responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 to advance equality of opportunity for students and to mainstream equality across all activities.

This review of national articulation database (NAD) equality information on students progressing to HEIs through articulation agreements highlights sector trends for age, disability, ethnicity and gender. It focuses on participation, retention, and completion outcomes of students progressing to HEIs through articulation with advanced standing.



  • Compared to the overall population of students in Scottish HEIs, there are fewer articulating students under the age of 21 or over 36, and more in the age ranges of 22-25 and 26-35. These trends broadly reflect college HE demographics.

Retention and completion:

  • There is little variation among retention rates for different age groups, with the proportion either continuing or qualifying at 95%. This is high compared to a total retention rate for Scotland of 91.3%.


  • Variation among rates of unclassified or ordinary degrees range from 21.5% for 22-25 year olds to 50.4% among those 36 and over (the highest percent of any distinct group).
  • For students who receive honours degrees, there is a lot of variation in degree attainment rates among different age groups. Younger students are much less likely to get a first class degree and more likely to get a lower second class degree. For example, only 7% of students under 21 receive a first class degree, compared to 12% (22-25 years), 21% (26-35 years) and 19% (36+).

Note: There was feedback at the 2014 Articulation for All conference that some of the unclassified or ordinary degrees among older students may represent positive outcomes, through an increased percent of older students accepting job offers instead of completing an honours degree.

Advance HE will be investigating the feasibility of including destinations data to provide context to the attainment outcomes.



  • The proportion of articulating student declaring they are disabled (7%)* is slightly less than that for university students (which is 9.3% for Scottish domiciled entrants) and HE students in college (9%), but much less than for FE college students (15.3%).
  • There are proportionally more disabled students studying at colleges in Scotland at HND/C level than are articulating to HEIs. 9.9% of HND students and 9.4% of HNC students declared a disability.

Retention and completion:

  • The proportion of disabled students that progress to the next year or complete their course is level with that of non-disabled students, at 95%. This compares favourably with the overall UK HE statistic, which is 90.3% for disabled students, and 91.5% for non-disabled students.

Attainment level:

  • Students with unknown/refused disability status are more likely to leave with an unclassified/ordinary degree than an honours degree (43.5% compared to overall average of 29.8%). Disabled students have a slightly lower rate of gaining unclassified/ordinary degrees, at 27.7%.
  • Among those receiving honours degrees, 56% of disabled articulating students receive a first class or 2.1 degree, compared with 58% of non-disabled students. This attainment gap for disabled students is smaller than is found in HE overall (68.8% for disabled students, 72.8% for non-disabled students), though attainment is again lower for articulating students in general.

*Note: This section includes college (FES) data which contains information on students who have ‘unknown’ disability status.There are 2% of articulation students with ‘unknown’ status. There are no ‘unknowns’ among university students, due to differences between FES data categories and UCAS/HESA records. In contrast, generally around 10% of college students in Scotland have an ‘unknown’ disability status.



  • Black and minority ethnic (BME) students are overrepresented among articulating students (10%). 4.1% of the total Scottish population is BME.*
  • BME students make up a higher proportion of articulating student entrants than Scottish domiciled students entering university in Scotland (5.2% Scottish domiciled entrants) and compared to those studying HND/C level in colleges (8.7% HND, 5.2% HNC).
  • In HEIs, there are higher percentages of black and Asian people among articulating students than overall in university in Scotland.


  • BME articulating students are clustered in business and administration studies (which has 39% of all articulating BME students), computing sciences (22%) and engineering (16%).
  • Articulating BME students in Scotland are more likely to study these subjects than BME students overall at university in the UK.
  • BME students are not underrepresented in articulation in any subject area with a minimum of 25 students over the three years, when compared against the population statistic of 4.1%.

Retention and completion:

  • BME articulating students are as likely to progress to the next year or complete their course as white students.
  • The BME continuation rate of 94% compares favourably with the 87.8% retention/completion rate of all BME students in HEIs across the UK.

Attainment level:

  • 79% of BME articulating students that receive a degree, receive an honours degree (as opposed to an unclassified/ordinary degree), compared to 70.2% of white articulating students.
  • However, among those receiving honours degrees, white articulating students are significantly more likely to get a first class or 2.1 degree (60%) than BME students (46%), which is a gap of 14 percentage points. This is a significantly wider gap than found in HEIs overall, where attainment is generally higher (73% for white students, 65% for BME), and the gap is 8 percentage points.

*Note: 4.1% is the overall statistic from the 2011 census, and is also the statistic for the 16-17 age group in the census, both of which could be used to benchmark BME participation. Additionally, this data is similar to the statistics in the 2012/13 school leavers destination survey, which shows a BME population rate of about 3.9%.



  • The gender split between male and female articulating students has remained around 50:50 overall over the last three years, reflecting the broad gender parity at HNC/D level in colleges.


  • Female articulating students are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) subjects (31%) and male articulating students are underrepresented in non-STEMM subjects (34%).
  • This compares unfavourably to 50.9% of women in STEMM in HEIs across the UK. However, there are similar patterns to those seen in universities for certain subjects, for example, in computer science and engineering.
  • The articulation split for STEMM /non-STEMM subjects mirrors college sector gender dynamics, where women students in HE at college comprise only 25.2% of STEMM students.

Retention and completion:

  • Women have a slightly higher retention and completion rate, at 96% compared to 94% for men. While there is little variation in withdrawal rates, male articulating students are slightly more likely to fail or not progress (2%) than female articulating students (1%). Both male and female articulating students have higher retention and completion rates than Scotland’s university sector average of 91.3%.

Attainment level:

  • Among articulating students women are more likely to be awarded unclassified/ordinary degrees (36.3% of women and 22.5% of men).
  • Among those receiving honours degrees, 56% of male articulating students receive a first class or 2.1 degree, less than the 60% of female students. This attainment gap is larger than is found in HEIs overall (70.1% for male students, 74.3% for female students), and attainment is again lower for both groups of articulating students.

Download the Data

The equality and diversity data tables used in this analysis are available to download:

Notes on the data: