THE Labour MSP and former Education Minister, Ian Gray, criticises the current SQA appeals system and rightly so (“Grade appeals charge does not price out state school pupils, SQA claims”, The Herald, January 23). It is no coincidence that appeals from the state sector fell by more than two per cent in the five years following a £30 charge being imposed by the SQA whilst those from the private sector increased by 1.3 per cent. This so-called administrative cost obviously deters state schools from requesting appeals to the clear detriment of state-educated pupils and to the frustration of staff.

Resources are severely limited in state secondary schools and in the communities they serve and it is no wonder great consideration has to be given to any appeal being launched due to the inherent potential costs.

On the other hand, the private sector enjoys smaller class sizes, markedly more resources and access to a larger budget even though the standard of teaching generally falls short of that of the state sector. It should be transparently evident to those who lead the SQA and local authority education departments that private schools will have an advantage over state schools in utilising the appeal system, which, as Mr Gray notes, breeds inequality and is unfair to the majority of senior pupils in the country.

Fiona Robertson, SQA chief, has her head firmly lodged in the sand whilst defending an austerity policy that benefits the wealthier members of our society. The Scottish Government must take a lead in this matter and not leave this to the “closed shop” of directors of education and SQA apparatchiks. Speaking with those who have a vested interest in defending the system will simply not be enough. State secondary schools require support, not additional barriers to pupil achievement.

Owen Kelly, Stirling.

WITH Scottish student debt now standing at £5.5 billion ("Student loan debt triples under SNP despite 2007 manifesto pledge to dump it", The Herald, January 22) it is high time for a complete rethink of higher education.

The benefits of studying medical and Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are self-evident. Similarly, a case can easily be made for courses in law, accountancy or something else vocational. But why are our universities turning out large numbers of graduates in near-pointless humanities subjects such as politics, geography and sociology?

Also, why do Scottish universities take four years to teach a student to first degree level, when English universities can do it in three, and the private University of Buckingham can, by putting an extra term in the summer vacation, do it in two?

The solution starts with fewer students doing quicker degrees which lead to productive careers. In a smaller higher education sector public money will go further, and it would be possible to support students more generously.

Otto Inglis, Edinburgh EH4.