Access Delivery Group meeting: September 2018

Minutes and papers from the fifth meeting of Access Delivery Group, held on 25 September 2018.

Attendees and apologies


  • Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Science (Chair)
  • Professor Sally Mapstone, University of St Andrews
  • Linda Somerville, National Union of Students Scotland  
  • Murdo Mathison, University and College Union Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Head Teachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland
  • Professor Vikki Boliver, Durham University
  • Dr Stephanie McKendry, University of Strathclyde
  • Elaine Drennan, Scottish Government (attending for Mick Wilson)
  • Lynn MacMillan, Scottish Government
  • Laura Duffy, Scottish Government
  • Karen Frew, Scottish Government (secretariat)
  • Roddy MacDonald, Scottish Government
  • Murray McVicar, Scottish Government
  • Ryan Scott, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Burns, Scottish Funding Council
  • Terry Shevlin, Universities Scotland (attending for Alastair Sim)
  • Joan MacKay, Education Scotland (attending for Alan Armstrong)
  • Professor Nigel Seaton, Abertay University
  • Dr Scott Montgomery, Scottish Funding Council
  • Dr Ken Thomson, Forth Valley College
  • Liz McIntyre, North East College Scotland
  • Susan Stewart, Open University in Scotland
  • Shona Struthers, Colleges Scotland
  • Liam McCabe, National Union of Students Scotland


  • Professor Sir Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access
  • Professor Petra Wend, Queen Margaret University
  • Alastair Sim, Universities Scotland
  • Katie Burke, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Peter Macleod, Renfrewshire Council
  • Dr Rebekah Widdowfield, Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
  • Mick Wilson, Scottish Government
  • Michael Cross, Scottish Funding Council

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. Attendees were invited to introduce themselves and indicate the area they represent. Apologies were conveyed for those unable to attend.  The Chair gave a brief outline of what he hoped to cover during the meeting.

2. Minute of previous meeting and matters arising

The minute of the previous meeting was agreed. There were no matters arising.

3. National Articulation Forum update

Nigel Seaton and Liz McIntyre, co-conveners of the National Articulation Forum provided an update on the work of the Forum. This was followed by a discussion where the following points were made:

  • the Forum is seeking to understand why some universities have more articulation students than others. They have made a commitment to work with colleagues to question what is possible in terms of increasing articulation and to work out how to get better results
  • the Forum has been considering how best to establish a baseline and what questions they are seeking to answer from research – they don’t want to replicate what is already out there
  • the Forum intend to carry out desk based research on where articulation was two years ago and where we are now. Lynn MacMillan noted the need to consider this research work in relation to research being undertaken to support the Learner Journey Review and Independent Review of Student Support implementation
  • there is a need to understand the barriers to articulation that students are facing – what motivates students – it is not always about availability – Liam McCabe offered to work with the Forum to gather information from students. The importance of communication with student associations and ensuring articulation routes are clear was also noted
  • the work of the Commission on Widening Access and the Independent Review of Student Support research are helpful. There is a need to look closely at the student support element. Students can find that employment is a route they have to take
  • Scottish Funding Council are providing support for an articulation conference – this will include significant student involvement
  • universities are reviewing their own practices – it is a two-sided problem, universities need to consider their practices and the Scottish Qualifications Authority framework needs to adapt – more students could potentially articulate if the framework was slightly different
  • institutions are in some cases competing for the same students, for example in early learning and childcare, where both colleges and universities are trying to attract the same learners.  It was suggested that consideration should be given to measuring articulation targets regionally rather than by individual institution

Action 1: The Forum will work with National Union of Students to gather information from student associations about what barriers to articulation students are facing and what motivates them. [L McCabe/L McIntyre/N Seaton]

Action 2: Lynn MacMillan to liaise with Liz McIntyre on research on articulation that is being undertaken by the Scottish Government. [SG officials]

4. National Articulation Database update

Dr Scott Montgomery gave a presentation on the Scottish Funding Council’s work on the new National Articulation Database. This was followed by a discussion where the following points were made:

  • the National Articulation Database enables analysis on gender, ethnicity and other protected characteristics. These can be viewed on a dial/dashboard
  • General Data Protection Regulation is an issue for the National Articulation Database
  • the database is heavily reliant on postcodes
  • the SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, and the University of the Highlands and Islands data is built from the Higher Education Statistics Agency data and that is being built into the National Articulation Database

5. Universities Scotland update

Sally Mapstone introduced the letter she sent to Lynn MacMillan on 21 June, in her capacity as chair of the Universities Scotland Admissions Working Group.  The subsequent discussion included the following points:

  • while participation of those from SIMD 20 areas is increasing, SIMD 40 is plateauing
  • there is a commitment within the sector to setting out minimum entry requirements and work is ongoing around personal statements – more work is needed to produce greater clarity on how universities use this information and to present a measured statement on what is required
  • it was suggested that in addition to the narrative on contextual admissions in the letter, could data on contextualised admissions be provided to the Access Delivery Group, for example data at an institutional level and data relating to individual contextual flags
  • it was suggested that information relating to the parameters used by higher education institutions to set minimum entry requirements be brought to the Access Delivery Group for awareness and discussion. Sally agreed to check with institutions and share the data that they feel comfortable sharing in respect of this
  • it was noted that the letter stated that Foundation Apprenticeships were newly accepted qualifications which was concerning for colleges about to bid for them on the basis that they are considered to be on a par with Scottish Highers. The Universities Scotland Admissions Working Group will be looking at this point at their next meeting

Action 3: Sally Mapstone will check with institutions and share the data that they feel comfortable sharing. [S Mapstone] 

Action 4: The Chair will reflect on whether the level of data suggested on contextual admissions is right for the Access Delivery Group and discuss with officials. [SG officials]

6. Coordinating and monitoring delivery

Update on Recommendation Improvement Overview Report templates

Laura Duffy introduced the agenda item noting the following points:

  • good progress has been made on the Recommendation Improvement Overview Report templates over the last two meetings thanks the significant amount of work that has gone into the templates by Lead Delivery Partners
  • group 1 templates were discussed in March, further written feedback on them was invited following the meeting and subject to final amendments they were agreed as final by the Access Delivery Group at the June meeting
  • following the discussion in June, written feedback was invited on the Group 2 templates and careful consideration has been given to that and the feedback provided during the meeting
  • Fiona Burns was invited to provide an update on discussions on the templates for recommendations 4 & 4a, and 7

Fiona Burns noted that officials from the SFC, Scottish Government and universities met to discuss templates 4 & 4a, and 7 in August and those discussions remain on-going.

The Access Delivery Group agreed that all Group 2 templates were considered final and approved. This was subject to any final substantive changes made to the templates for recommendations 4 & 4a, and recommendation 7, being brought back to the group.

Quarterly monitoring next steps

Next steps for monitoring were set out and the role of Lead Delivery Partners within that. The first round of monitoring information will be issued for completion in October and Laura Duffy will contact Lead Delivery Partner’s to seek a nominee lead contact for this. 

Action 5: Laura will contact all lead delivery partners seeking a nominee lead contact for quarterly monitoring and issue the first round of monitoring information for completion in October. [L Duffy]

7. AOB and date of next meeting

Points raised included the following:

  • an update on the Widening Access and Retention Fund Review was requested and it was agreed that the Scottish Funding Council would circulate a holding line on this
  • an update on the Commissioner for Fair Access was requested and it was agreed that one would be issued shortly
  • the next meeting will take place in January and dates will be circulated shortly. The Chair invited members to submit suggestions for agenda items to officials
  • the Chair thanked members for their contribution and efforts so far, recognising that progress is being made, then closed the meeting

Action 6: A holding line on the Widening Access and Retention Fund Review to be circulated. [SFC officials]

Action 7: An update on the Commissioner for Fair Access to be issued. [SG officials]

Action 8: Dates for the next meeting to be circulated. [SG officials]


Meeting agenda
Access Delivery Group - paper 5-4: SG policy updates



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