Access Delivery Group meeting: November 2021

Minutes of the ninth meeting of the Access Delivery Group.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education and Youth Employment and Training (Chair)
  • Professor Sir Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access
  • Susan Stewart, Open University in Scotland
  • Professor Sally Mapstone, University of St Andrews
  • Alastair Sim, Universities Scotland
  • Kirsty Conlon, Universities Scotland
  • Murdo Mathison, University and College Union Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Head Teachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland
  • Stephanie McKendry, University of Strathclyde
  • Neil Croll, University of Glasgow
  • Linda O’Neill, CELCIS
  • Lydia Rohmer, West Highland College UHI
  • Mark McCahill, Colleges Scotland
  • Sofia Khan, NUS Scotland
  • Vikki Boliver, Researcher, Durham University
  • Russell Gunson, IPPR
  • Nicole Beattie, NUS
  • Joan MacKay, Education Scotland
  • Lauren McNamara, Student Awards Agency Scotland
  • Fiona Burns, Scottish Funding Council
  • Karen Frew, Scottish Government
  • Roddy MacDonald, Scottish Government
  • Debbie Browett, Scottish Government
  • Elaine Drennan, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced himself as the Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training. Mr Hepburn reinforced the message that the Scottish Government see widening access as really important and are keen to see a further push on this.

As this is the first time Mr Hepburn had chaired the meeting he invited everyone to introduce themselves.

Minute of previous meeting and matters arising

The minute of the previous meeting was agreed, with no matters arising.

Commissioner for Fair Access annual report

Peter Scott provided an update on 3 of his reports, 2 annual reports and one interim report which included the following points:

  • access is not enough – we also need progression
  • law degrees only funded for the first stage – professional training fees charged
  • gender/race/ethnicity – overlap in different ways – need to be joined up
  • impact of covid for those with the least the most is being taken away
  • should never be complacent – far from being achieved
  • finer grain metrics ie fsm
  • articulation – developing new pathways – slower progress
  • longer term consequences – right balance on-line and face to face teaching
  • proper sustainable funding for Framework

This prompted some discussion on free school meals data being used as a supplementary evidence for university applications. Nicole Beattie asked if this could be looked at again for Scottish applicants with consideration for remote and rural areas.

Jim Thewlis stated that the review of SQA should be considered alongside widening access agenda to engage with the discussion.

Peter Scott comment that using the FSM metric and extending the range of eligible candidates may make it more difficult to assess progress but that it was useful to have FSM as a measure alongside SIMD. Had also cautioned that we should be careful over focusing on SIMD20 as this may result in a ‘squeezed’ middle – there would be major consequences if the numbers went back down.

Lydia Rohmer commented that widening access was a core mission for colleges and this should be more broadly recognised, colleges have a unique reach into the school sector. The alternative qualifications offered at college need to be recognised better.

Susan Stewart stated that she supports addition of free school meals but important to note mature students not covered. It would also be beneficial to remove the 26 years age cap for additional benefits for care experienced students.

Neil Croll reported that the Access Data Group also made a recommendation to use an income based measure for mature learners - picking up all the Group's recommendations would help us make progress for all ages.

Framework for Fair Access

Stephanie McKendry delivered a presentation on the Framework for Fair Access including the Toolkit and SCAPP. The discussion included the following points:

  • the toolkit will have no impact if no-one engages with it
  • there is a lack of evidence to rank how effective the intervention is
  • SCAPP is involved in 5 areas of activity and provides a link with the Toolkit, researchers and practitioners
  • SCAPP has delivered a successful mentoring scheme providing quality standards and accredition and setting up best practice groups – it’s membership grew last year
  • the two pillars are far apart (toolkit and SCAPP) the toolkit needs to be refreshed
  • both need to be issued with sustainable funding
  • the Commissioner has recommended that both the toolkit and SCAPP are linked

Neil Croll supported what Steph said about bring both together, he stated that the sector needs to take more control over it and it would be beneficial if we could secure that funding.

CoWA delivery and future focus

Fiona Burns led the agenda item and provided an update on progress of widening access from the Scottish Funding Council.

  • CoWA 2016:
        • 13.8% of entrants from SIMD20
        • 16.4% now – over 1000 additional students
        • 10% met other than North East
  • the SFC support SIMD20 although this is not the only indicator of deprivation, and they would support use of FSM data
  • the SFC are proud of the work they have done on articulation
  • the SFC are involved in a national schools programme and developing fair access pathways
  • they are considering the Education Reform programme and how this plays into the tertiary education system

The minister stated that SG had responded to the SFC Review and will be retaining the role of Commissioner for the foreseeable future.

Murdo Mathieson welcomed SG position regarding retaining the role of Commissioner, UCU would like to see the role retained. He stated that there was a societal demand for change and new targets should be set and would want to see the wide support being replicated. He expressed concern over how, as a union, they could feed into the SFC review.

The Minister advised that this forum was the place to have this type of dialogue and assured the group that there was political buy in for the widening access agenda. He advised that officials would look at taking forward FSM as a measure of deprivation alongside SIMD20.

AOB and date of next meeting

The Minister noted that the group currently meet twice a year and asked members to consider if they would like to meet more often. He confirmed that potential dates of future meetings would be circulated. He thanked members for their contributions and closed the meeting.

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