Scotland leads UK on university students from deprived areas

Widening access an “unambiguous success”.

Scotland is continuing to “set the pace” when it comes to students from deprived areas getting into university, the Commissioner for Fair Access has said.

The Commissioner’s latest annual report said the Scottish Government’s approach has been an “unambiguous success” and that “all the fair access indicators are flashing green”, despite the impact of COVID-19. It marks Sir Peter Scott’s last report as Commissioner for Fair Access before stepping down.

A record 16.7% of students from Scotland’s most deprived 20% of communities were entrants on full-time first-year degree courses in 2020/21, an increase of  545 students compared with the previous year. This represents an increase of around 1,550 entrants (39%), during Sir Peter’s time as Commissioner.

Higher Education minister Jamie Hepburn said:

"The Commissioner for Fair Access makes it clear that Scotland continues to set the pace in the UK in terms of fair access to higher education, with a record number of Scottish students from deprived areas enrolling in university for the first time.

“I would like to thank Sir Peter Scott for his contribution as Scotland’s first Fair Access Commissioner and pay tribute to the lasting legacy he will leave.  We will consider the recommendations of the report carefully.

“While excellent progress has been made by our institutions, we cannot let up on the momentum in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.

"We believe every young person should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter their circumstances.”


Maintaining the Momentum Towards Fair Access 

Scotland has already reached  an interim target that by 2021,16% of new entrants to full-time first-degree courses should come from the 20% most deprived communities (as measured by SIMD). This target rises to 18% in 2026 and the final target of 20%, a level playing-field in terms of access to higher education, by 2030.


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