THE work that universities across Scotland are doing to help schools deliver Advanced Highers started almost as an afterthought.

Through the drive to widen access to students from poorer backgrounds university staff noticed the lack of opportunities to study Advanced Highers in some schools.

Similarly, university staff also became aware that for some areas of study, such as the sciences, school facilities could not compete with their own laboratory space and equipment.

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As a result universities increasingly began opening their doors to school pupils to study Advanced Highers.

The initiatives are important because Advanced Highers are increasingly seen as the best preparation for university.

However, because access to subjects can be limited in schools where few pupils want to take them there is a considerable advantage to those in middle class areas or private schools who have a full range to choose from.

A rising number of children are staying on to S6, but only around one in 10 will go on to study an Advanced Higher – in some cases due to a lack of choice.

Current difficulties recruiting teachers in key subjects such as maths and science has exacerbated the issue and budget cuts are already forcing some councils to consider reducing qualification choices even further.

The answer may lie in the currently collaborations between councils and universities.

Over time ad hoc arrangements have grown into something much more substantial with hundreds of pupils across the country now routinely travelling to universities to study Advanced Highers.

The success of these initiatives, with pass rates well above the national average, is also a compelling factor, but difficult questions persist.

Are such schemes taking away a crucial element of what schools should be offering with cuts to budgets likely to further erode subject choice to sixth year pupils?

In addition, if the model is seen as something worth expanding within a more formal structure, then who will fund it?

The Glasgow Caledonian hub is jointly funded by the Scottish Funding Council and Glasgow City Council, but budget pressures make its long-term future difficult to predict.