Scotland's poorest pupils lag behind England on university entrance

The number of Scottish pupils from the poorest areas getting into university is behind the behind the equivalent statistic for England, it has emerged.
Former Cabinet minister Kenny MacAskillFormer Cabinet minister Kenny MacAskill
Former Cabinet minister Kenny MacAskill

As school leavers south of the border received their exam results, UCAS figures showed that 16.5 per cent of those securing a place at university were from the from least wealthy 20 per cent of English areas.

The equivalent figure for Scotland was 11.9 per cent. The same pattern was observed in those pupils from the second poorest areas.

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When it came to those from the 20 to 40 per cent most deprived areas in England, 22 per cent of pupils got into university on results day. That compared with a Scottish figure of just 17.8 per cent.

The Scottish Conservatives claimed the figures called into question the Scottish Government’s free tuition policy amid growing suspicions it benefits middle class children more than their deprived counterparts.

Former SNP Cabinet minister Kenny MacAskill suggested a modest tuition fee should be introduced to fund grants for the most disadvantaged.

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “These figures show clearly that it’s much easier for a pupil from a deprived background in England to get to university than it is in Scotland.
“The SNP has had more than a decade to address this, but it has failed. This SNP government now owes generations of disadvantaged youngsters an explanation – why are their contemporaries south of the border significantly more likely to get to university?
“This also blows a hole in the SNP’s policy of universal free tuition. It blatantly is not working, is harming universities financially and – as Kenny MacAskill has now admitted – is reducing opportunity for those who need it the most.
“We need a radical rethink from the Scottish Government, or more children from the poorest backgrounds will be placed at a stark disadvantage to those just a few hundred miles away.”

Writing in the Scotsman, Mr MacAskill said “a modest tuition fee may be a sensible trade-off for grants for the poorest”.