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New figures show ‘one step forward, one step back’ for fair access

Friday 03-02-2017 - 09:57

Between 2014/15 and 2015/16 there was a 0.4% decrease in university entrants from most deprived backgrounds

The decrease returns university entry figures to their 2014/15 level

The decrease comes despite targets in place for fair access by 2030, which these suggest will be missed by decades

New figures released today by the Scottish Funding Council have shown a 0.4% decrease in the number of full-time, young university entrants from the 20% most disadvantaged communities in 2015/16. That decrease follows a marginal, equal increase the previous year, returning the figure to where it was in 2013/14 – 10.4%. That decrease comes despite the Commission on Widening Access recommending “…by 2030 students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education”, with an interim target of 15.5% by 2019/20. 
 
While these figures only relate to young, full-time entrants – and so do not cover the full range of students from a deprived background who may have entered higher education – they show the scale of the challenge ahead. NUS Scotland has warned that without much more immediate, bold and ambitious action, those targets will be missed by decades, and is calling for the necessary investment, from universities, colleges and government, to ensure they are met. The figures also cover a period where universities received additional places for widening access, showing investment and places alone are not enough and shows the need for the urgent implementation of the full recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access.

Commenting, Vonnie Sandlan, President of NUS Scotland, said:
“These are incredibly disappointing figures, and show just how far we still have to go to secure our ambitions on fair access. After the marginal increase seen last year we’ve fallen right back to where we were, with an equal decrease this year. Education is a transformative experience, and the responsibility to ensure that it’s in reach for every child in Scotland, with the potential to succeed, is incumbent on us all – but these regressive figures suggest that’s far from the reality, and those young people are still being left behind.   
 
“When the Commission on Widening Access released its final report it was welcomed as a strong challenge to all of us who want to see bold and radical improvements in fair access. A key part of that challenge was the targets the Commission presented – accepted by the sector and Government – to improve fair access for students from the most deprived communities by 2030. However, these ‘one step forward, one step back’ figures show that we’re not only a long way from meeting those targets, but we’re falling even further away from ever meeting them.  
 
“It was encouraging to see the Scottish Government commit to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access in full, including the targets it set. But these figures show that requires bold, ambitious and immediate action if targets are to be met. That points to a much more fundamental issue. With the Scottish budget currently making its way through Parliament, that should serve as a warning for the necessary action, and investment to deliver that, to ensure targets and our ambitions can be met in full – from universities, colleges, and the Scottish Government. But it also shouldn’t be forgotten that these figures relate to years where our universities were provided with additional funded places specifically for fair access, yet we’ve seen no progress. That shows that it’s not just about investment, but serious efforts on the part of the institutions.”

For more information contact Fergus Boden, NUS Scotland Press and Influencing Officer, on fergus.boden@nus-scotland.org.uk. 

Notes: 
1.    A table showing the figures is produced below. The full figures can be found on the SFC’s website, http://www.sfc.ac.uk/Participation_indicator_for_Scottish_HEIs.aspx
 

 

% Entrants from 20% most deprived communities

Institution

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

Aberdeen, University of

4.0% 

3.5% 

3.0% 

Abertay Dundee, University of

11.9% 

9.7% 

11.7% 

Dundee, University of

13.3% 

13.6% 

13.0% 

Edinburgh Napier University

8.0% 

7.9% 

9.2% 

Edinburgh, University of

5.9% 

6.1% 

5.3% 

Glasgow Caledonian University

17.1% 

15.9% 

17.0% 

Glasgow School of Art

13.3% 

19.2% 

13.5% 

Glasgow, University of

11.3% 

11.5% 

10.2% 

Heriot-Watt University

6.5% 

10.8% 

9.2% 

Highlands and Islands, University of the

7.9% 

8.3% 

5.5% 

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

10.5% 

9.9% 

6.8% 

Robert Gordon University

5.1% 

5.8% 

6.3% 

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

4.9% 

8.4% 

10.3% 

SRUC

7.0% 

8.8% 

8.2% 

St Andrews, University of

4.8% 

4.3% 

4.3% 

Stirling, University of

9.7% 

12.7% 

10.4% 

Strathclyde, University of

9.3% 

10.8% 

11.5% 

West of Scotland, University of the

19.9% 

22.4% 

20.9% 

Total

10.4% 

10.8% 

10.4% 

Categories:

NUS Scotland

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sfc,commission on widening access,press release,vonnie sandlan,NUS Scotland,widening access

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