It has prompted opposition claims that Scotland’s education system is becoming “less equal” and demands for more government investment.
The number of young people from the most-deprived areas going to university has increased by 0.8 per cent – compared with a 2.6 per cent increase among those from better off areas. The Ucas figures show four in ten people from wealthier areas are able to access university while one in ten from the most deprived backgrounds gain entry.
Labour says it contradicts Nicola Sturgeon’s recent claims during First Ministers Questions at Holyrood that the gap is narrowing.
The Scottish Government is now being urged to keep promises to reduce the attainment gap amid fears that cuts in the Scottish Budget will make the situation worse.
Education spokesman Iain Gray said: “Nicola Sturgeon has promised that every child, regardless of their background, would have an equal chance of going to university.
“But those chances have become less equal while she’s been First Minister. It goes to show that warm words from the SNP aren’t enough, closing the attainment gap will take more investment in our schools.
“Labour will continue to make the case for a 50p top rate of tax on those earning more than £150,000 a year to invest in closing the attainment gap in schools across Scotland.”
The Scottish Government said the Ucas figures recorded the highest university entry rate for 18-year-olds from Scotland’s 20 per cent most deprived areas.
A spokeswoman said: “In 2006, 18-year-olds from the 20 per cent least-deprived areas were 5.8 times as likely to enter university as those from the 20 per cent most deprived areas, and this has decreased to 3.9 times in 2016.
“It is welcome news this is heading in the right direction, but we are committed to making further and faster progress on fairer access to higher education for all, as the recommendations made by the commission on widening access are implemented.”
Education chiefs said they have appointed Professor Peter Scott as commissioner for fair access to higher education in Scotland, who will support disadvantaged learners and drive change.”