Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli has "welcomed" Education Secretary John Swinney's decision to abandon the downgrade of more than 120,000 exams.

Original teacher estimates will be used to determine the results of pupils this year instead.

Principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow University Sir Anton believes the decision will ensure that young people in Scotland will not lose out based on factors outwith their control.


He said: “This is a very welcome decision which will ensure young people in Scotland who have worked so hard in incredibly difficult circumstances do not lose out based on factors outwith their control, and we should all congratulate them on the grades they have achieved.

“These achievements now provide an opportunity for us to accept even more Scottish-domiciled students to the University of Glasgow – particularly those who may come from Widening Participation backgrounds – with an increase in places funded by the Scottish Government. We stand ready to welcome those students who hold an offer from the University of Glasgow and who now find themselves with the grades they need, as well as those with the grades who apply for programmes still available through Clearing."

READ MORE: Swinney abandons SQA downgrades and lets pass rates soar after backlash

The Education Secretary announced the wholesale U-turn earlier today, after a backlash from students who felt they had been treated unfairly by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) when it recalculated their results.

The move means overall national pass rates will now revert to the hugely inflated levels that Nicola Sturgeon dismissed as “not credible” only last week. 

The A to C attainment rates for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher are now expected to jump by 10.7, 14.4 and 13.7 percentage points compared to 2019, rising to 88.9%, 89.2% and 93.1% respectively.

Mr Swinney acknowleged that any concerns about "grade inflation" were "outweighed" by the concern that young people from working class backgrounds could lose faith in the education system.

The news will be a welcome relief to many students whose downgraded results upset their plans for university or college.

READ MORE: How Scotland reacted to John Swinney's SQA U-turn

Sir Anton added:“A quality education is one of the most powerful tools at society’s disposal as a route out of poverty, and at a time when many avenues are being closed off to our young people, this is yet another timely demonstration of the value of Higher Education in providing the opportunities and valuable skills which will go some way to ensuring we don’t see long-term labour market scarring among the current generation of school-leavers.

“Our Universities can play an essential role in the post-Covid economic recovery – it should be education-led. This demonstrates our value to society.

“It is important that we now allow the SQA, Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council the time to work through the complex detail of this announcement, but this is a decision which I hope will work for pupils, universities and in the national economic interest, in what are clearly very challenging times.

“This year’s exam diet has been strange for everyone involved. It’s now time that we as a University devote our energies to ensuring as many of the young people as possible who’ve achieved the relevant grades can take up the opportunity of a university education, which they’ve worked so hard to achieve.”

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) chief executive and Scotland’s chief examining officer, Fiona Robertson, said in a statement: “Everyone at SQA fully acknowledges the strength of feeling about last week’s results among individual learners, their parents and carers – and among wider colleagues in the education system.

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“As the Deputy First Minister has outlined in Parliament today, through a Ministerial direction SQA will change the previous approach to certification this year and instead award candidate results based solely on the estimates provided by schools and colleges. The results of those learners who were awarded a higher grade during the process will also be maintained.

“Schools and colleges already have the estimate information that will form the basis of the amended results, but we will work to ensure that centres receive their confirmed results as soon as possible and no later than the end of next week. Any candidate who has a grade changed as a result of this, will receive a new certificate. Confirmed results will also be shared with Ucas.

“We are considering in more detail, with the Scottish Government, any appeals process which should support this direction and will announce further details very shortly.

“We will, of course, co-operate fully and positively with the review of the awarding process for National Qualifications 2020 and the OECD review.

“Our core aim is to support the efforts of learners throughout Scotland and everyone at the SQA will work hard to ensure we fully implement the steps outlined in the Deputy First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament.”