New widening access data a cause for celebration in Scotland

Universities in Scotland have reached a significant milestone in their commitment to widen access, with the latest figures showing 16.4% of students were from SIMD20 backgrounds in the academic year 2019/20. The Commission on Widening Access recommended that 16% of students should be from SIMD20 backgrounds by 2021 with an overall aim to reach 20% by 2030.

Responding to today’s rise in number of enrolments and students from deprived areas, Universities Scotland Director Alastair Sim said:

“Universities are interested in talent. Where you come from should not dictate whether you should go to university and today’s news shows that progress is being made in Scotland. This is a fantastic achievement that shows the commitment of our universities to widen access. We have reached the 2021 target a year ahead of time, but the hard work continues as we look to 2030 and beyond.

“This achievement has been possible because of a concerted and coordinated drive to catalyse the rate of progress and build on longstanding commitments to access from individual institutions. Scotland’s universities have delivered a set of progressive policies including minimum entry requirements in admissions and guaranteed offers for care experienced students; moves that other countries are now looking to emulate. The job is not done, if anything the challenge to 2030 will get tougher. It will require continued ownership and leadership from universities but we are deeply committed to this.”


  • A record number of students were enrolled at Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) – up by 2.8% since 2018-19 to 260,490 (+7,015)
  • There were 167,030 Scottish domiciled enrolments to Scottish HEIs – an increase of 2.2% since 2018-19 (+3,560). This is the highest number of enrolments since 2009-10
  • 16.4% (or 4,970) of Scottish domiciled full time first degree entrants to Scottish HEIs were from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland. This is an increase from 15.9% in 2018/19 (due to rounding, this is an increase of 0.6 percentage points). Source: Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2019/20 | HESA
  • In November 2017, Universities Scotland published Working to Widen Access, a cross-sector publication that recommended 15 actions that universities should undertake.