ST ANDREWS University has defended its stance on admitting just 14 students from Scotland’s most deprived areas – claiming it would be forced to lower its academic standards significantly to enlist more.
University chiefs have warned this would risk damaging its reputation as a world-leading institution.
Vice-principal Stephen Magee said: “We have a choice – we can continue to beat up our leading universities for failing to admit more kids from our most deprived areas, or we can start, without shame or blame, to ask if perhaps there is something going wrong throughout the whole equation.”
The institution has set a new target to increase its annual intake of students from the 20 most deprived areas in the country by 45 per cent – an additional six students per year. The National Union of Students claimed the figure was “minuscule by any standard”.
St Andrews said a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government revealed that of the 8,872 fifth-year pupils from the most deprived areas in 2011, only 220 achieved three A Higher passes or better.
Of these, 55 applied to St Andrews, which made offers to 34. Only 14 accepted.
In the general population, the university admits only one in every ten applicants, compared to one in four applicants from deprived areas.
Mr Magee added: “We are out across the country in schools week in and week out doing our best to attract those with the most potential to come and study in Fife.”
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said: “We’ve always said that universities can’t do it all when it comes to promoting fair access, but they can do a great deal more.”