Scottish unis fail to improve fair access

by Mathew R Johnstone

Scottish universities admit fewer students from deprived areas than the rest of the UK, it was revealed last week.

The National Union of Students Scotland condemned the figures, which showed the number of students from the most deprived backgrounds studying at Scottish universities has risen by just 0.7%.

While NUS said that any increase was welcome, the numbers showed ‘little progress’ compared to previous years.

The rise in the figures was called ‘disappointing,’ as agreements had been put in place last year to make fairer access to higher education the ‘legal duty’ of a university.

President of NUS Scotland Gordon Maloney particularly criticised ‘elite’ institutions. Without naming particular universities, he said they had ‘gone backwards’ despite pledging to improve.

Joint figures from the Scottish Funding Council and the Higher Education Statistics agency show that only 29% of young Scottish students come from the bottom four social class brackets, considerably less than the 32% across the whole of the UK.

Maloney said this gap between Scotland and the rest of the country ‘is a record we simply cannot tolerate any more,’ and that ‘the status quo isn’t an option.’

Maloney also said that Scotland now has’ significant investment in extra places for fair access and outcome agreements given a place in legislation, creating a strong national framework for strong local action.’