Scots school leavers being '˜locked out' of university

Scottish school leavers applying to the nation's leading universities are missing out on places, with just one-fifth of successful applicants to Edinburgh and one-third to St Andrews coming from Scotland.

Edinburgh University recorded that just 20 per cent of successful applicants were Scottish. Picture: Jane Barlow

A breakdown of Scottish applications to higher education establishments revealed that at ten out of 17 institutions the proportion of successful Scottish candidates is running at 53 per cent or less.

Labour yesterday claimed funding cuts were to blame for Scots losing out on places in the country’s higher education system. The Scottish Government’s policy to provide free tuition for Scottish students means that a cap has been imposed on the number of students who can benefit.

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Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray last night called for the cap to be relaxed and claimed Scots were being “locked out” of their own education system.

Labour highlighted a table produced by the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland, which ranked offer rates for Scottish applications by university. At Glasgow School of Art, just 13 per cent of successful applicants were Scottish, while Edinburgh recorded 
20 per cent and Scotland’s ­oldest university, St Andrews, had 35 per cent.

The other universities making up the ten with 53 per cent or less were: Stirling (43 per cent), Dundee (45 per cent), Glasgow Caledonian (46 per cent), Queen Margaret (47 per cent), Strathclyde (51 per cent), West of Scotland (51 per cent) and Napier (53 per cent).

Mr Gray said: “We need to give our people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future, but we can’t do that if they are repeatedly locked out of higher education.

“The issue is that because Scottish students’ fees are funded, the Scottish Government ‘caps’ numbers. If we are serious about increasing opportunity and widening access, that cap has to be relaxed. In fact, the SNP has cut funding for university teaching year-on-year.”

A Universities Scotland spokesman said: “We would welcome more Scottish students on the proviso that the places are fully funded to ensure teaching quality and educational experience are at a level consummate with the sector’s world-class reputation. Ultimately, the decision for the number of places for Scottish and EU students are set by the Scottish Government.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said recent Ucas figures showed the highest ever entry rate for students from Scotland’s most deprived areas, adding that ministers were committed to widening access and to free tuition.