Universities Scotland welcomes interim report from the Commission on Widening Access

Universities Scotland welcomed the interim report from the Commission on Widening Access, as published today [Thursday, 12 November], and repeated its support for the Commission’s creative and joined-up approach to a challenge that spans all parts of our education system and society.

Responding to the interim publication, Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal at the University of Dundee said:


“University Principals share the Commission’s commitment to further improvement in access to higher education from underrepresented groups. We are encouraged by the direction of the Commission’s work based on the interim report.

“Launching the Commission was a bold and exciting step for Scotland because it is the first attempt to take a genuinely joined-up approach to widening access. It acknowledges that the challenges, and therefore the solutions, sit in more than one part of Scottish society and spans the full range of education sectors. The Commission’s clear call for joined-up work on access and its recognition that we need to include a wide set of measures of socioeconomic disadvantage, so that no-one is left behind, are the very values that we have been talking about to the Commission.

“We accept there is more work to do and we expect to be challenged by the Commission over the coming months as it reaches its final recommendations. However, we are encouraged that the interim report recognises that there is lots of good practice in the sector and that progress on widening access is already being made. The partnership approach, which has been central to the Commission so far, will also be crucial to its success in achieving new levels of widening access.”


In reference to the Commission’s consideration of contextual admissions, a Universities Scotland spokesperson added:


“Scotland’s universities consider applications based on the applicant’s talent, ability and potential. Potential is important because university is about intellectual and personal growth. There is hard evidence to show that not every person has had a level playing field on which to demonstrate their potential by the time they apply to university. Contextual admissions can help with this and it is one of many tools, but definitely not a silver bullet, that universities can use to help widen access. Universities will always be looking for the best and brightest applicants – our quality and excellence is very important to us and absolutely will not be compromised – but we are open-minded about what best and brightest actually means.”



  • The Commission has had the full support of university leaders from the outset.
  • Professor Petra Wend and Professor Anton Muscatelli, respectively Principals of Queen Margaret University Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow, are Commissioners.
  • Universities Scotland has contributed written and oral evidence to the Commission as have its member universities.