Publication - Independent report

Access to postgraduate study - representation and destinations: discussion paper

Published: 21 Jan 2020

Independent paper from the Commissioner for Fair Access considering representation of students from the most deprived areas of Scotland in postgraduate study and their destinations.

Access to postgraduate study - representation and destinations: discussion paper
Representation in postgraduate study

Representation in postgraduate study

Entry to postgraduate study is, in all but exceptional circumstances, restricted to learners who already hold a first degree. Therefore, if progression rates from first degree to postgraduate did not vary between students from different SIMD quintiles, we would expect the representation of different groups in postgraduate study to mirror the patterns observed at first degree level.

Figure 1 shows the SIMD quintile distribution of Scottish domiciled full-time students entering first and postgraduate degrees in 2017/18. Students from the most deprived areas (SIMD Q1) comprised a lower percentage of the postgraduate entrant population (12.5%) than they did in first degree study (15.6%), whereas those from the least deprived areas (SIMD Q5) had a higher representation in postgraduate study (30.7%) relative to first degree study (28.2%). It should be noted, however, that the figure for SIMD Q1 full-time first degree entrants has increased over recent years (from 13.7% in 2013/14[3] to 15.6% in 2017/18), amid efforts in response to CoWA's recommendations.

Inequality of access to undergraduate study effectively acts as a barrier to postgraduate study. We can use progression rates from first degree to postgraduate study to improve our understanding of the underrepresentation observed at postgraduate level. In particular, this allows us to consider how earlier factors in the university career of a student affect whether they progress directly to postgraduate study, and how this interacts with deprivation. This is much more difficult to do using postgraduate entrant data, since this same data is not available for those who are not undertaking postgraduate study.

Figure 1: Percentage of full-time entrants in each SIMD quintile, by level of study

Source: HESA Student data 2017/18

Figure 1: Percentage of full-time entrants in each SIMD quintile, by level of study

Key points:

  • Representation of students from the most deprived areas is lower in postgraduate study (12.5%) than it is in first degree study (15.6%) among full-time entrants.

Contact

Email: CommissionerForFairAccess@gov.scot