The rates of direct entry into universities among the poorest 20 per cent of the country has barely grown at all under the SNP between 2006-7 and 2013-14, according to former civil servant Lucy Hunter Blackburn.
It comes after claims by education secretary Angela Constance of a significant 7 per cent rise to 42 per cent in participation in further and higher education among poorer students.
But the research indicates that colleges account for the bulk of this hike – the rise in universities has been just 0.8 per cent to 15.9 per cent.
Ms Hunter Blackburn said: “These figures show that over the past eight years very little progress has been made in increasing the proportion of people from the most deprived backgrounds who go directly into university by the age of 30.
“Indeed, at times, that figure has actually gone backwards.”
Labour opportunity spokesman Iain Gray is now calling on ministers to set out how they plan to widen access to university for poorer students.
He said: “Under the SNP it looks like access from the poorest into university has stalled, or may have even gone backwards.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said young people from the most deprived areas in Scotland are now more likely to participate in higher education by the age of 30 than they were in 2006-7. She added: “We want all our young people to have an equal chance to go to university. That’s why we have given legal backing to widening access aims through outcome agreements.”