Universities Scotland ready to work with Scottish Government to support more Scottish students into postgraduate study opportunities

Universities Scotland has today [Monday 21 December] welcomed the publication of the Taught Postgraduate Study Working Group’s report.

The report is clear that increased postgraduate-level study by Scottish-domiciled students will help drive the creation of a high-skill economy and well as enhancing individuals’ opportunities.

However, participation by Scottish-domiciled students has flatlined in recent years, for reasons explored in the report.

The recommendations made by the Working Group, if implemented, will create improved opportunities for Scottish students to enter postgraduate level study, for students from diverse backgrounds.

The Working Group recommends the introduction of a clear and universal entitlement to student loan support for Scottish-domiciled students undertaking postgraduate study. This is particularly welcome as the sector had previously called for postgraduate loan support to widen access and the increase the take up of postgraduate opportunities by Scots.

The Working Group, chaired by Professor Bryan MacGregor, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Physical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, has identified a number of options to increase and widen participation in postgraduate level study, including:


  • Incentives to undertake postgraduate study including changes to funding support
  • Improved online course information
  • Greater focus on wider access to underrepresented groups based on age, gender and socio-economic background
  • Closer engagement between industry and universities


The Principals of all 19 Scottish universities are committed to widening access to higher education opportunities for all learners with the ability to succeed at undergraduate and postgraduate level study. The report’s recommendations should help ensure wide access to postgraduate study to learners from challenged socio-economic backgrounds.

Universities Scotland’s Director, Alastair Sim said:

“A ‘Can Do’ Scotland needs people who are developing their skills to the highest levels possible. Today’s report makes important recommendations for how we can support more people, from diverse backgrounds, to fulfil their potential at postgraduate level. This is important for individuals, and for our growth as a high-skill economy.

“Universities Scotland looks forward to working closely with Scottish Government early in the New Year to build and implement new ways of promoting taught postgraduate study. We want postgraduate level study to be within the grasp of all successful graduates with the potential to benefit, no matter their financial circumstances.”



  • The Working Group’s Final Report published on 21 December 2015 can be read here:
  • The Scottish Government’s press release with comment from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Angela Constance, and the Working Group’s Chair, Professor Bryan MacGregor can be read here:
  • The Working Group was made up of representatives from Universities Scotland, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), the Scottish Funding Council, the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland and the University and College Union (UCU) Scotland.
  • The Working Group’s analysis has confirmed that between 2004-05 and 2013-14 there was a 2% decline in the number of Scottish-domiciled students enrolled in taught postgraduate study at Scottish higher education institutions, which means that enrolments fell by 250 students. In the same period, there has been increased demand from international students for postgraduate level study with non-EU students accounting for 29% of postgraduate students in Scotland in 2013-14 compared to 21% in 2004-05.
  • The Working Group’s report notes that when Teaching-related CPD courses and PGDE enrolments are excluded from the data, between academic years 2004-05 and 2013-14, a much smaller decline of 2% (250 students) is observed in the number of Scottish-domiciled taught postgraduate enrolments. Including these courses means that has been 10% decline in student enrolments over the period, or 2,230 students.