The number of students from Scotland’s poorest areas going to university has fallen, new figures have revealed.
Equality data from the university admissions body Ucas showed a decline in applications from and places awarded to those from the most deprived 20 per cent of areas.
The Scottish Government has put a major focus on cutting the attainment gap between rich and poor, and increasing the number of Scots from the worst-off communities at university.
The figures showed 1,215 applicants from this group were given a place in 2015, down from 1,305 the previous year.
Figures for individual universities, published for the first time by Ucas and rounded to the nearest five, show St Andrews University placed 15 Scottish students from the poorest areas in 2015, down from 25 in 2014. Edinburgh took on 75 students from this background in 2015, compared to 100 the previous year.
While the number of successful applicants from the poorest areas fell across Scotland as a whole, there was an increase in Scots from the most-affluent communities going to university, up from 4,605 to 4,685 over the period.
Of those looking to start a course last October, 1,935 were from the most-deprived communities, down 60 from the previous year.
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “This is a damning report confirming that the SNP just isn’t doing enough to close the attainment gap or increase opportunity among Scotland’s least-privileged.”
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland described the figures as being a “very useful but highly detailed and complex data set that needs further examination”.
She stated: “The one factor that underpins all of the data is that whoever you are and whatever your background, it is a lot more competitive to get into university in Scotland than it is in other parts of the UK, and that comes down to the limited availability of places here in Scotland.”