New Commissioner for Fair Access

Prof. John McKendrick to continue pushing progress on widening HE participation.

Professor John McKendrick has been appointed as the new Commissioner for Fair Access to Higher Education in Scotland.

Currently Professor of Social Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University, he will work across Scotland’s education system to champion increased representation at university for students from the country’s most deprived areas.

Prof McKendrick succeeds Prof Sir Peter Scott who stepped down as Scotland's inaugural Commissioner for Fair Access last year after six years in the role.

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that students from the 20% most deprived communities will represent 20% of entrants to Scottish universities by 2030, and steady progress has been made towards this in recent years.

Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment & Training Jamie Hepburn said:

“I would like to thank Peter Scott for his tireless hard work and effort during his time as Commissioner. I have no doubt that Prof McKendrick will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role, alongside a strong passion for widening access to higher education.

"More students from our most deprived areas are attending university than ever before – we have already exceeded the first interim target to have 16% of all entrants to Scottish universities from the 20% most deprived areas.

"This progress is extremely encouraging, but we know we have more to do. Prof McKendrick’s appointment provides an excellent opportunity to continue to drive progress on fairer access to higher education for all at such a pivotal juncture.”

Prof McKendrick said:

"It is a great honour to be appointed Commissioner for Fair Access and I relish the opportunity of working with those committed to tackling inequalities in access.

"Progress has been made toward meeting the ambitious 2030 target to widen access, but the world in which we live has changed. The Covid pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis have intensified the problems for those already facing most disadvantage.

"We now need to upscale our efforts to widen access in Higher Education, if Scotland is to prosper as a high-skill economy, and to do so as an inclusive society."


Recent UCAS data  has shown that the number of 18-year-olds securing university places from the most deprived areas has increased since 2019 by 31% to a record high – demonstrating the progress Scotland is making on widening access. Additionally, acceptances from all ages groups in the most deprived areas increased by 4% since the UCAS cycle of 2019, which is the last year exams took place before the pandemic.

Prof McKendrick formally takes up the role as Commissioner for Fair Access on January 10.

John McKendrick is Professor of Social Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University and Co-Director of the Scottish Poverty & Inequality Research Unit. He has dedicated a career to tackling inequality and poverty in Scotland and has managed projects for and worked closely with a number of organisations in civil society and the public sector, including The Poverty Alliance, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Child Poverty Action Group.

Prof McKendrick also has a particular interest in equity in secondary and tertiary education and has led the evaluation of Glasgow Caledonian University’s flagship widening participation scheme, the Caledonian Club.


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