New figures show no let-up on widening access from universities

Universities Scotland have welcomed the publication of the Report on Widening Access 2020-21 by the sector’s funding body, the Scottish Funding Council which demonstrates the sector’s commitment to widening access.

The Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access set the sector a target that by 2021, students from the 20% most-disadvantaged backgrounds (SIMD20) should represent at least 16% of full-time first-degree entrants to Scottish universities as a whole. The Scottish Government’s target is that by 2030, 20% of full-time first-degree entrants to Scottish universities should be from an SIMD20 background.

This year’s report states that:

  • 16.7% of full-time first-degree entrants to university were from an SIMD20 background. This is an increase from 16.4% in 2019-20, this equates to an additional 545 students from SIMD20 backgrounds entering university.
  • Retention rates for those from SIMD20 backgrounds has increased year on year from 87.5% last year to 90.2%.
  • An increase of 0.3% from 1.2% to 1.5% of full-time first-degree entrants being care experienced. Retention rates have also improved for care experience students going from 87% to 91% for 2020-21.
  • A greater proportion of entrants with Higher National (HN) qualifications articulated from college into university with full credit for their college attainments, in 2020/21, this was 58.3% (57.7% the year before).

Reflecting on the report, Director of Universities Scotland, Alastair Sim said:

 “This year’s results demonstrate the university sector’s strong values-based commitment to providing opportunity for learners from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Against a background of the pandemic’s disruption to learning, it is good to see more students from disadvantaged backgrounds getting into university, and also to see them progressing successfully in their studies once they are at university. We are especially pleased to see more care-experienced learners benefiting from a university education.

 “Universities are committed to further progress, as we look towards what the Commissioner for Fair Access has called the ‘hardest mile’ of attaining the Scottish Government’s 2030 target for 20% of university entrants to come from the 20% most-disadvantaged areas.”