PUPILS are being pushed towards university at the expense of other options such as vocational courses or employment, it has been claimed.

A Scottish Parliament poll of 900 young people found two thirds felt schools prioritised information about university when discussing career options.

And some 60 per cent thought advice was based on the assumption a degree “was what most people would do next” rather than whether it was the most suitable option.

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A summary report of the survey, commissioned by Holyrood’s education committee, concluded: “The vast majority of respondents felt they were told more about how to get into university.

“The information provided indicates that many felt that university was prioritised at the expense of other options.”

HeraldScotland:

Responses from individual participants suggested schools thought an increase in pupils going to university would improve their reputation.

One pupil said: “The school felt that I would not be able to succeed in life unless I attended university.”

Another told the survey: “I feel my school was more concerned with how good they look on paper than helping signpost students into different directions.”

A third said: “University was presented as the next natural progression. If students weren’t planning on going to university they didn’t care.”

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The survey was commissioned as the committee prepares to take evidence on the future pathways of pupils as they leave school.

Students who go to university have better job prospects and earn more money over the course of their career than those who do not.

However, there are concerns a university degree is seen as “better” than other options such as college or an apprenticeship.

Schools also feel they are judged by the proportion of pupils going into “positive destinations” such as university when they leave.

The committee received a number of written submissions which also raised concerns.

Colleges Scotland said: “Pupils require better information advice and guidance about the pathways available to them, and at an earlier stage than they currently receive it.”

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said a number of regions had raised the issue and highlighted the importance of headteachers changing perceptions of options such as apprenticeships.

The National Parent Forum of Scotland said alternative pathways to the traditional university route were “vital”.

Its submission said: “It should not be assumed that it is due to a lack of academic ability that young people do not go on to higher education. “These young people are often not being adequately integrated and included in school.”

Parent body Connect said schools had failed to adapt to changes in the curriculum seeing exam results and university “as the target next step”.

The body said: “The variation of what is offered to young people across the country in terms of the curriculum ... is unacceptable, as is the continued firm focus on university as the preferred next step.

“This leaves many young people feeling disengaged and disinterested in school and learning and ... is a significant waste for all.”

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said Scottish society continued to place “high value” on university education.

Its submission states: “In recent decades, parental and wider societal expectations have strongly reflected this.

“A narrow focus on attainment has often prevailed, senior qualifications being the requisite currency for access to university.

“The EIS has long-argued the need for a wider range of pathways that are relevant and attractive ... and for parity of esteem in terms of the status, time and resource that are assigned to these options.”

However, the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association said the lengthy nature of the university applications process meant schools had to give it priority.

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Its submission states: “Given the nature of the application process, which can be quite intensive, we can understand why some young people might feel that university has a particular focus in schools.

“A late application is not guaranteed for consideration and we can see it is entirely possible that it could be construed that university might be a school’s first interest.

“However, by the time they leave school many young people will have already had the opportunity to experience a range of wider opportunities.”