Record breaking widening access success highlighted in new figures

Responding to the publication of the Higher Education Student Statistics UK 2020-21, which shows the highest number and proportion of Scottish students from Scotland’s most deprived areas, Universities Scotland Director, Alastair Sim said:

It’s a source of pride for the sector that more students than ever from Scotland’s most deprived areas are studying and hopefully flourishing at universities. We remain committed to the 2030 target but we are acutely aware that the final push to get to 20% of students coming from the most-disadvantaged backgrounds will be the hardest.”



Higher Education Student Statistics UK 2020-21 show:

  • 16.7% of Scottish domiciled full time first degree entrants to Scottish HEIs are from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland. This is an increase of 0.3 percentage points, or 545 entrants, from 16.4% in 2019-20.
  • A record number of students enrolled at Scottish HEIs in 2020-21: an increase from last year of 8.6% (+22,385) to 282,875.
Student Number Change
Scottish domiciled 180,170 (+7.9%, +13,120 since 2019-20)
rUK domiciled 34,520 (+8.4%, +2,685 since 2019-20)
Non-EU domiciled 47,630 (+17.0%, +6,935 since 2019-20)
EU domiciled 20,550 (-1.7%, -345 since 2019-20)
  • The First Minister has set a target that by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education. This was endorsed by the Commission on Widening Access in their 2016 report, A Blueprint for Fairness.