Universities will play their part in driving system-wide change to widen access

Universities Scotland has welcomed a final report published by the Commission on Widening Access today and repeated the higher education sector’s commitment to working to widen access. Universities Scotland shares in the Commission’s belief that achieving fair access is the right thing to do and requires system-wide change to do it.

‘A Blueprint for Fairness’, the final report of the Commission on Widening Access, proposes 34 recommendations drawn out of five key priority areas.

The bold report sets out a clear challenge to universities, to Government, to the Funding Council and other stakeholders to take tangible actions to do more to widen access.

Recommendations include the creation of a Commissioner for Fair Access, the development of a Scottish Framework for Fair Access and access targets to be reached by 2030. The recommendations also set out proposals for minimum entry requirements and guaranteed places at university.

The Commission’s report makes repeated reference to the need for all parts of the Scotland’s education system, and other partners, to work collaboratively together to achieve the shared objective of wider access.

Commenting on the recommendations set out in the report, Professor Petra Wend, Vice-Convener of Universities Scotland, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen Margaret University Edinburgh & a member of the Commission said:


“The Commission is important because it has been the first real attempt in Scotland, and in the UK, to take a holistic approach to widening access. In doing so it recognised that to bring about the kind of change everyone wants to see, the approach needs to start very early in children’s lives it and needs to be joined-up. This is repeated time and time again in the report.”


Universities Scotland Convener, Professor Sir Pete Downes, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee said:


“Widening access is as important to Principals as it is to the whole of Scotland. We have been very keen to hear the Commission’s recommendations.

“There is much in this report that we support. We welcome the Commission’s recognition of the good work already going on to widen access in our universities, the passion of the people behind our access programmes and fact that efforts to widen access has to start young, very young. Some recommendations, including those that focus on minimum entry requirements and guaranteed places, are going to be challenging for universities and for the Scottish Government but we will not shy away from that as we take the time to consider the recommendations in depth.

“Principals meet next month and this will be high on our agenda. We will also be looking to talk to Dame Ruth and the other Commissioners in the coming weeks and months. Delivering on this report will require the same collaborative effort as developing it.”


Universities Scotland will look forward to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to take this work forward.

Scotland’s universities deliver a life-cycle approach to widening access, which means starting access initiatives in the early-years, with parental involvement, right through school, college to include mature learners. Examples of this approach in practice in our 19 university members can be found in Access All Areas.



  1. The full report can be accessed here.
  2. Universities Scotland’s Action on Access can be read here.
  3. Universities Scotland’s  submission  in response to the call for evidence from the Commission on Widening Access can be read here.