Rise in least advantaged university entrants in Scotland

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:

The Scottish government has welcomed a rise in the number of university entrants from the poorest backgrounds, which has brought the level close to official targets.

Figures show that 15.6 per cent of new students at Scottish universities in 2017/18 were from the most deprived areas, a rise of about a fifth over the last five years.

This is just below a target of 16 per cent for 2021 and 20 per cent by 2030.

Last year the overall number of Scottish students enrolling in the country’s universities also rose, by 3.2 per cent to 104,520.

Richard Lochhead, minister for higher education, said: “These statistics highlight the good progress being made on widening access to higher education.

“I’m pleased to see more Scots going to university here and a record increase in entrants from our most deprived areas.

“Combined with other recent statistics this shows demonstrable progress towards giving every young person in Scotland an equal chance of success, no matter their background or circumstance.”

Professor Sir Peter Scott, the commissioner for Fair Access, also welcomed the rise – which follows three years of flat-lining – arguing that it proved the worth of setting institutional targets.

He said: “Opinions are mixed about targets in general ... but these targets are proving their worth.

“The gap in school attainment remains a challenge and students from more deprived areas are still over-concentrated in particular institutions, but there is no harm celebrating hopeful social progress.”

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said institutions had stepped up work on widening access, and this was now bearing fruit. He added: “A 20 per cent rise over five years in students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds is proof that we are a sector that lives up to its values.

“In addition to our success on widening access, it’s welcome to see an increase in enrolments at all age groups as well as rises in the number of students enrolling who disclose a disability and from a minority ethnic background.”

However, in a separate development Mr Sim raised concerns over the prospect of a further decline in real-terms funding from central government.


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