Fair access to university will take 40 years
A CHILD’S chance of going to university varies dramatically depending on which part of the country they live in, according to new figures that show it will take Scotland nearly 40 years to have “fair” access to higher education.
Details that have been obtained by the National Union of Students (NUS) show that while more than two-thirds of school-leavers in some areas of the country go on to university, elsewhere the figure is just 25 per cent.
According to the report released today, entitled Unlocking Scotland’s Potential, it will take Scotland 40 years at the current rate of progress to have student bodies which are “fair” and “representative” of the country as a whole.
While 68 per cent of those leaving school in the Scottish Parliament constituency of Eastwood, East Renfrewshire, go on to university, the figure in Glasgow’s Provan constituency is 25 per cent.
However, the report also found a number of schools with significant levels of poorer pupils were among the top 10 per cent for sending their students on to university.
In the constituency of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, 35 per cent go to university, despite 45 per cent of students in S1-S4 being from deprived backgrounds.
That contrasts with Motherwell and Wishaw, where 33 per cent go to university, despite only 2 per cent coming from the poorest homes.
The NUS said three of Scotland’s ancient universities – Aberdeen, Edinburgh and St Andrews – were currently recruiting 16 students from the most affluent backgrounds for every one student taken on from the most deprived parts of the country. That compares with a ratio of just over two to one for all of Scotland’s universities taken together.
It said, at the current rate of progress in widening access, it would take until 2050 to see 20 per cent of the university population coming from the 20 per cent poorest backgrounds.
The NUS called on Scottish universities to make “differential offers” to candidates based on where they had gone to school – a practice already used by some English institutions – which sets the bar lower for those from deprived backgrounds.
Robin Parker, NUS Scotland president, said: “If we can’t hold a mirror to our universities and see Scottish society then something is very wrong.
“We hope Scotland can again lead the way, and show that universities can recruit more talented people from poorer backgrounds, can improve standards through doing so, and ensure that university is open to those with the talent to do well at university, not just those from particular backgrounds.”
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: “Every one of Scotland’s universities is committed to widening access, and we entirely share NUS’s ambition that more people from all backgrounds should have the opportunity of a university education if they have the ability and potential to benefit.
“Widening access is a complex issue with many root causes.
Ultimately, it is about creating opportunities for individuals, not postcodes or data zones.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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