‘Flawed policy’ excludes Shetland’s poorest

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:

Edinburgh University is wrong to stick to a postcode indicator of poverty that means young people from Shetland will miss out on clearing places, said Tavish Scott, MSP for the islands.

Mr Scott has written to the university’s principal, Peter Mathieson, stating that hundreds of children live in poverty in Shetland even though it is not among Scotland’s most deprived areas, known as SIMD 20.

Edinburgh University is only offering unused places to students living in a postcode deemed part of this least wealthy 20 per cent.

“There is no one simple and faultless measure of deprivation but it is stating the obvious to say that a prospective student’s personal circumstances cannot be ascertained solely by their postcode,” Mr Scott wrote.

In 2016, despite figures showing that Shetland had the lowest level of child poverty across local authorities in Scotland, there were still more than 400 children living in poverty there, he added.

“Like in other rural areas, young people facing a high cost of living do not always have easy access to many of the opportunities available to those on mainland Scotland. Therefore, I would urge you to reconsider this flawed policy.”

He called for more “contextual offers to disadvantaged students rather than through a last-minute push through clearing”.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, has previously highlighted figures suggesting about 65 per cent of young people from the poorest households live outside SIMD 20 postcodes. A spokesperson for the university said: “We are fully committed to widening participation and welcome students from all backgrounds from across Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world. The 2018/19 cycle is not yet complete, but we are very pleased to see continuing progress in the diversity of our new entrants.

“Clearing for Care-Experienced and SIMD 20 Scottish applicants is only one of the mechanisms we use to support widening participation. Each mechanism addresses a specific barrier to higher education; for example, our Scotland and University of Edinburgh Scholarships provide generous financial support based on household income levels.”

Mr Scott also sent his letter to education secretary, John Swinney, and the commissioner for fair access, Sir Peter Scott.


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