The impact of COVID-19 on fair access was briefly mentioned in my last Annual Report published in June 2020 (https://www.gov.scot/publications/fair-access-higher-education-progress-challenges/). As the pandemic intensified I decided that its impact should receive more detailed consideration in my next Annual Report, and I wrote to College and University Principals, and other organisations such as Universities Scotland, Colleges Scotland and NUS Scotland asking for their views about the challenges they faced and how they were attempting to mitigate the worst effects of COVID-19.
As it became clear during the autumn that the lull on infections over the summer (and the near-eradication of COVID-19 in Scotland) following the initial lockdown was being succeeded by a 'second wave', I decided to write an interim report that focused exclusively on the impact of the pandemic, because it clearly had the potential to deliver a severe check to the impressive progress towards fairer access to higher education. I wrote, therefore, a second letter to Principals seeking additional and more detailed information. I have received substantive replies from 11 universities, 10 colleges and seven other organisations (and individuals). The responses from colleges did not distinguish between their further education and higher education students. In addition I have had a number of online meetings.
I am very grateful to all the Principals (and their colleagues) who have taken time to write detailed responses to my letter(s) and to all those who have taken part in online meetings. This report is based on those responses and meetings.