Scotland’s universities welcome appointment of Chair to Widening Access Commission

Scotland’s universities welcome appointment of Chair to Widening Access Commission

Universities Scotland has today, Tuesday 17 March, warmly welcomed the announcement of Dame Ruth Silver’s appointment to Chair the Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access.

Scotland’s universities are committed to widening access to university for every single child with the desire and ability, no matter what their background, and are supportive of the establishment of a Widening Access Commission which will take a holistic perspective on how to enhance young peoples’ attainments and opportunities.

Every one of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions is committed to promoting wide access to higher education and will support the work of the Commission, contributing in shared responsibility to raising the educational attainment of all of Scotland’s school pupils and in closing the attainment gap that is already evident between Scotland’s wealthiest and poorest children as young as five years of age.

Welcoming today’s announcement Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland said:

“We fully support Dame Ruth and the work of the Commission to address the issue of narrowing the attainment gap. We look forward to working with her and all the members of the Widening Access Commission in our shared ambition to ensure that every learner has the opportunity to benefit from a university education and realise their full potential.”

“Dame Ruth’s extensive personal and professional experience will bring a wealth of understanding and knowledge to the appointment, in recognising that access to university is a shared challenge and there is a role for schools, colleges and, local authorities to play in this as well as universities. We are all united in our determination to raise attainment, and we hope that the membership of that Commission will reflect the breadth of contributions to widening access. Every level in Scotland’s education sector has a shared responsibility and commitment if we are to make a significant difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged of society.”



  • The proportion of undergraduate university entrants from SIMD20 increased in 2012-13 from 12.8% to 13.3%, and the proportion from SIMD40 increased from 28.6% to 29%.
  • What are universities doing to raise attainment?
    All Scotland’s higher education institutions are working hard to promote wide access to university-level education, in a life-cycle approach which extends from the earliest years to the third age. See Access All Areas. Examples include:
    Interventions in the pre-school and primary years Interventions in the pre-school and primary years e.g. Glasgow Caledonian University’s Caledonian Club which works with young people and families in deprived areas of Glasgow to raise educational aspirations and to open the University to the community; University of Strathclyde’s Children’s University which allows children from age seven to experience further and higher education and access special lectures and conducted visits at the university and other learning activities; and Abertay University’s highly interactive Tayside Space School which gives 80 primary school pupils the chance to study various aspects of space travel and exploration and raises their awareness of science and technology. Glasgow School of Art’s Continuing Education department offers a wide range of courses for children aged seven to eleven years of age on Saturday mornings and afternoon as week-long courses during the summer.
    Interventions to promote aspiration in secondary-age children e.g. University of Edinburgh works with secondary schools and their feeder primaries to normalise structures and experiences of higher and further education for pupils who work with university staff and role model students; Edinburgh Napier University’s Build a Business in a Day works with S2 pupils from ten schools across Fife, the Lothians and Borders to give an insight into entrepreneurship and teamwork in a university setting; and Entry to the Creative Industries run by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland provides opportunities and tailored support to pupils who are interesting in progressing in the performing or production arts from 37 schools in the west of Scotland with below average progression rates to higher education.
    Interventions to support senior phase learners to achieve qualifications for university-level study e.g. University of Aberdeen’s S6@Uni programme works in partnership with schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to provide a broad range of opportunities for S6 pupils including courses to complement existing Advanced Highers or replace provision at the same SCQF level where no Advanced Higher is offered; Queen Margaret University’s innovative Academy model is pushing the boundaries of traditional education to offer real job and education opportunities to senior school pupils in Edinburgh, East and Midlothian in partnership with the local college, local authorities and industry; and the national SCHOLAR programme of e-learning courseware offered by Heriot-Watt University incorporates interactive, engaging online materials in over 30 courses for use by students in their final year of school to help reshape their skills for the challenges of the 21st century.
    Interventions such as summer schools to give learners from challenged backgrounds an extra chance e.g. University of St Andrew’s Sutton Trust Summer School has 130 pupils with backgrounds of socio-economic and education disadvantage participating each year with a focus to encourage them to apply for competitive courses and universities; and the University of Dundee’s DUAL summer school which has been running for 21 years offers students a six-week intensive tuition programme to prove they can take a place at university and acclimatises them to the demands they will face. Similarly The University of Glasgow runs Taster Weeks in June or July every year with up to 200 S5 and S6 pupils participating, some of whom will come from schools with a low progression rate to higher education and others will live in the 40 per cent most disadvantaged areas.
    Links with colleges e.g. Robert Gordon University is the lead institution within the north-east articulation hub in conjunction with Aberdeen College and Banff & Buchan College and has formal agreements in place with a number of others. At the heart of the creation of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has been the desire to bring together the four land based education institutions into one. SRUC students are identified and supported towards their future study plans earlier in their academic careers, enabling pupils to leave school with National 4s an and 5s, specialising in land based subject at the earliest opportunity. The University of Stirling’s Twogether are innovative education and skills programmes in applied biological sciences and heritage and conservation that go o beyond traditional 2 +2 articulation arrangements between further education colleges and universities and are wholly integrated with student enrolled as college and university students.
    Promotion of ‘second chances’ to learn e.g. the Open University in Scotland’s Openings modules which are open to adults from all educational backgrounds as a gentle introduction to further study and allow students to earn 15 credits at SCQF level 7 for successfully completing them; the University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of Access to courses designed to help people into university study who have been away from study for a number of years or lack the usual entry requirements; and the University of the West of Scotland’s Making Experience Count programme at its Lifelong Learning Academy gives advice and guidance to students and staff on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to help them decide on further study or personal and professional development options.