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CaSE responds to 2017 Scottish exam results

08 Aug 2017

Science subjects number four out of the five most popular Advanced Highers, while popularity of Highers in science remain steady

Science subjects are most popular among Scottish students at Advanced Higher level

Scottish students received exam results today at all levels including Highers and Advanced Highers. Data shows the popularity of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects remaining steady at Higher level, although attainment in these subjects remains below average for all subjects. However, STEM subjects are among the most popular at Advanced Higher level, numbering four of the top five most popular Advanced Highers, along with English. Maths is the most popular Advanced Higher, followed by English, and then chemistry, biology and physics.

​Commenting on the results, ​CaSE Executive Director, Dr Sarah Main, said:

“Scotland has a great reputation for excellence in scientific research. The Scottish Government is trying to extend the reach of that excellence through the school system, investing in support for science learning in schools and colleges. It is encouraging to see so many students choosing to pursue science subjects at Advanced Higher level. This must bode well for future opportunities for them personally and for Scotland.

Today’s results show the popularity of science subjects among Scottish students remaining steady at Higher level after a recent dip, although it is a concern that attainment of grades A to C remains comparatively low.

The Scottish Government has a number of initiatives to increase access to and enthusiasm for science learning among all students. I hope they will begin to pay off in the coming years and that we will see enthusiasm for science grow among all schools and students.”

In May of this year, Nicola Sturgeon wrote to CaSE on behalf of the SNP setting out priorities for science. In her letter, she wrote:

The SNP Scottish Government is investing in support for STEM learning at school, college and university. We are working to improve the provision of STEM subjects at primary and secondary school, including through partnership work. For example, a new 3 year £1 million fund to boost primary science learning in schools has been made possible by a partnership with the Wood Foundation.


1.  CaSE is the leading independent advocate for science and engineering. Find out more at

2. Read Nicola Sturgeon’s letter to CaSE on behalf of the SNP setting out priorities for science ahead of the 2017 General Election here:

3. The data analysis undertaken by CaSE is shown below, and can be found at