Access to higher education continues to widen

Scottish universities ‘ahead of schedule’ on closing deprivation gap.

Scotland’s universities have nearly met the interim targets set for widening access - two years ahead of schedule.

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) figures for the academic year 2018/19 show 15.9% of full-time first degree entrants to Scottish universities came from the nation’s 20% of most deprived areas – just under the target of 16% by 2021.

The figures also show:

• there was a continued rise in the number of Scottish domiciled enrolments to Scottish higher education institutions (HEIs) which now stands at 163,470, a rise of 1.6% since 2017/18 - the highest number of enrolments since 2010/11
• the first fall in EU enrolment numbers since the expansion of the EU in 2004
• a record 253,475 students were enrolled at Scottish HEIs in 2018/19, a 2.6% increase from last year and a 10.2% rise since 2006/07

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“These figures show the tremendous progress of Scotland’s universities in making higher education not only more inclusive than ever, but also attracting a rising number of Scots overall.

“The proportion of full-time first degree entrants from the most deprived areas in Scotland is at its highest level on record, giving many more people - no matter their circumstances - an equal chance of success.

“That means we are on the verge of meeting a key milestone for widening access – just 0.1 percentage points shy of the target – two years ahead of schedule. That is very welcome news.

“Overall, we now have a record number of students at our HEIs and the highest number of Scottish students since 2010/11 - testament to our fantastic range of courses on offer, the high standard of our institutions and staff who run and teach them, and our historic global reputation for excellence.”

“And, internationally, it is clear that our institutions are competing well on the global stage.

“The fall in EU students is the first in a very long time, and that number could well be worsened by a damaging Brexit, with serious consequences on our Higher Education sector, and Scotland as a whole.”

Full figures for the academic year 2018/19.




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