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Scottish students get best-ever results

THOUSANDS of Scottish students were celebrating academic success today as Standard and Higher Grade exam passes rose to near-record levels.

Provisional results showed higher pass rates were up to 69 per cent, compared with 68.5 per cent last year.

The percentage of A grades, crucial for deciding university entrance, was also slightly up, reaching 15.7 per cent, compared with 15.3 per cent last year.

Standard Grade results, the equivalent of GCSEs in the rest of the United Kingdom, were also up, with 39.4 per cent of candidates gaining the top two grades.

Donald Dewar, the Scottish Secretary, congratulated students on the results.

He said: "These results are testimony to the efforts to individual pupils who clearly recognise the importance of education for their futures."

Today marks the start of the annual rush to fill university places in Scotland.

The vast majority of the 27,300 Scottish students hoping for a place at university are expected to get the grades they need.

But officials at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service expect around 6,000 students to enter the clearing system in Scotland this year, which matches students with unfilled university places

The Independent is publishing exclusively the official Ucas list of surplus Scottish university places available through clearing for the first time today.

Updated lists will also be published at the weekend in The Independent on Sunday.

Tony Higgins, the Ucas chief executive, said: "Prospective students who find themselves in the unfortunate position of not having the higher grades they need will realise that any decision they make now will affect their future career.

"The official Ucas clearing list is the vital tool for those highers students who have to go through clearing."

Ron Tuck, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which is responsible for public examinations north of the border, said: "The increase in the percentage of passes at A this year, albeit slight, can be put down to hard work on the part of candidates and teaching staff, and I believe congratulations are due to all concerned. "SQA maintains a rigorous programme of quality control which ensures that the highers taken this year have exactly the same value as those taken in previous years."