STUDENTS from the poorest communities across Scotland remain under-represented in the country’s prestigious Ancient universities, new figures show.
Just eight per cent of Scottish entrants at the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews came from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in 2015/16.
The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) figures also show students from less-affluent backgrounds are also less likely to enter small specialist institutions such as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Glasgow School of Art making up just 11 per cent of their intake.
Newer institutions such as the universities of Dundee and Stirling had a rate of 12 per cent while post-1992 institutions such as Abertay University and Queen Margaret University had the largest proportion with 15 per cent.
The Scottish Government has set a target for one fifth of students entering higher education by 2030 to be from Scotland’s 20 per cent most deprived communities, but the figures show the overall proportion at universities has now slipped from 10.8 per cent to 10.4 per cent.
However, when college students studying higher education courses are included the proportion rises to 16.1 per cent – up from 16 per cent the previous year.
NUS Scotland president Vonnie Sandlan described the figures as “hugely disappointing”.
She said: “What this clearly illustrates is that work to secure a truly fair education system is not being shared by every institution and we continue to see the bulk of our widening access work being done by the same institutions.
“Previous NUS Scotland research revealed that national targets will be missed by decades if we continue at the current pace and these figures only serve to reinforce that warning.
“We can no longer allow any institution to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to widening access.”
A spokesman for Universities Scotland, which represents principals, said all institutions recognised the scale of the challenge facing them.
He said: “We have three of our principals leading work on bridging programmes, articulation and changes to the admissions process.”
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Higher Education Minister, said she was encouraged by the slight overall increase despite the variation between institutions.
She added: “Scotland is gifted with a wide range of world-class universities for students to choose from and we need to make sure all our higher education institutions are accessible.
“I am in no doubt that through our continued focus on widening access and our work with our higher education institutions, we will continue to see improvements.”
Colleges fared best with the number of entrants from poorer backgrounds, with 23 per cent coming from the most deprived areas.
The Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access called for students from the 20 per cent most deprived backgrounds to represent 20 per cent of entrants to higher education by 2030.
Overall, there were 285,450 students in higher education in Scotland, up 1.5 per cent from the previous year.
Source : HeraldScotland