Saturday 27-08-2016 - 11:18
Fair access targets could be missed for decades without ‘ambitious, bold and immediate action’
NUS Scotland has warned that - on the basis of current trends and without ambitious, bold and immediate action – targets on improving widening access, set by the Commission on Widening Access and accepted by the Scottish Government, will be missed for up to twenty years (see notes).
• Targets set by the Commission on Widening Access won’t be met until 2050: two decades after they should.
• NUS Scotland is calling for ambitious, bold and immediate action to improve fair access.
• That must include the necessary investment in places and the appointment of a Fair Access Commissioner.
The Commission on Widening Access set a target of: “By 2030, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education”. However, on the basis of trends this target may not be met until 2050. That is similar to projections in NUS Scotland’s 2012 report into fair access, Unlocking Scotland’s Potential, which warned at the time that figures indicated we would not see true fair access for 40 years.
NUS Scotland has urged the figures to prompt much more immediate action to improve fair access. Part of that is through the appointment of a Scottish Fair Access Commissioner, another recommendation of the Commission on Widening Access (see notes).
Vonnie Sandlan, President of NUS Scotland, said:
“When the Commission on Widening Access released its final report we welcomed it as a strong challenge to all of us who want to see ambitious and radical improvements in fair access to higher education. A key part of that challenge was the targets the Commission presented, to improve fair access between students from the most and least deprived communities. However, we’re still a long way from meeting those targets, and on the basis of recent trends they won’t be met until two decades after the year in which they should have been.
“In 2012, NUS Scotland released our landmark report on fair access, Unlocking Scotland’s Potential, which showed that at current rates of progress it could take 40 years to achieve fair access. Despite huge amounts of work since then to ensure we saw much faster progress – not least the incredibly welcome and important investment in thousands of additional places for fair access – it’s worrying to see that hasn’t shifted. Education is a transformative experience, and the responsibility to ensure that it’s in reach for every child in Scotland is incumbent on us all – but these figures suggest that, while fair access remains a priority, we’re still far from realising our ambitions.
“It was really positive to see the Scottish Government commit to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access in full, including the targets it set. That requires ambitious, bold and immediate action, including continued investment in places, to ensure targets can be met in full, if not exceeded. And it also requires the necessary leadership to push our universities and colleges to secure that progress, through the appointment of a Fair Access Commissioner. We were really pleased to hear the First Minister previously announce that would happen over the summer. We hope to see an appointment made as a matter of urgency and priority, if we’re to take the bold leaps we must in reaching those, so far elusive, targets.”
1. The projections are based on trends going back to 2007/08 (chosen now on the basis of it being the start point for NUS Scotland’s projections in Unlocking Scotland’s Potential):
2. CoWA Recommendation 1: The Scottish Government should appoint a Commissioner for Fair Access by the end of 2016. The First Minister announced on May 25th that: “…over the summer, we will appoint a commissioner for fair access to drive the change that will be needed in our universities and colleges and to ensure that the recommendations of the widening access commission are implemented in full.” – see official report here, http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10452&i=96275
3. You can find a copy of NUS Scotland’s 2012 Unlocking Scotland’s Potential report here http://www.nus.org.uk/Documents/NUS%20Scotland/Unlocking%20Scotland's%20Potential.pdf