More Scottish university places for poor students

Edinburgh University. Picture: Greg Macvean
Edinburgh University. Picture: Greg Macvean
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MORE students from poor backgrounds are winning places at Scotland’s universities straight from college, according to new figures.

Statistics collated by the National Union of Students (NUS) also show that fewer students who come directly from college are dropping out of university compared with previous years.

According to the figures, the number of young people “articulating” from college to university in Scotland has increased from 2,290 in 2008-9 to 2,846 in 2011-12, an increase of 24 per cent.

Around one-fifth of those taking the route from college to university come from the country’s most deprived backgrounds. The NUS said the figures showed that moving from college to university could be used as a tool to widen access to higher education.

Universities are under pressure from the Scottish Government to increase the number of students coming from poorer backgrounds in return for generous funding settlements over the past few years.

In contrast, colleges have seen their budgets cut, despite providing a useful link between school and university for some.

Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said: “We need to break out from the idea that the only way to get a degree experience is to go to university straight from school. These figures show that studying at college for a year or two before moving on to university to finish your degree can have hugely successful results.

“This is especially true for students from our most deprived communities. Every university should recognise that working with colleges provides a huge opportunity to tackle our poor records on widening access. We know articulation can help make access fairer and Scottish universities should know this too.”

The figures also show improving retention rates, with around 94 per cent of university students who entered higher education from college continuing their studies without dropping out, up from 92 per cent in 2008-2009. Of those from the poorest 20 per cent of homes, 94 per cent now stay on, compared to 89 per cent in 2008-9.

Umbrella body Universities Scotland said articulation had an important role to play for people who would not traditionally have gone to university, not just those defined as deprived by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: “Universities have put a lot of effort into building articulation routes from colleges because they are committed to widening access. That effort is starting to pay off.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “These figures demonstrate that accessibility to university continues to widen, which we will further enhance through the Post 16 Education Bill.”