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Universities and colleges getting more diverse


4 Nov 2014

The latest figures on widening access to colleges and universities in Scotland paint a more diverse picture than ever before but, according to Scottish Funding Council Chief Executive Laurence Howells, there’s still much more to do.

Since 2006 the Scottish Funding Council has assembled and published annual statistics to measure progress towards removing the barriers to learning for people who are disadvantaged by such things as poverty, disability, ethnic background or whether they are male or female.

Today’s figures show an increase in people from the most disadvantaged groups in society getting onto university courses. Equally encouraging is the finding that universities are doing better at keeping students from disadvantaged backgrounds once they’ve managed to get a place. In some universities students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds now have as good (and sometimes even better) chance of seeing their studies through to the end as students from any other type of background.

One of the biggest causes for optimism in today’s figures is a significant increase in the number of students going on from a college course to study at a university. Colleges remain strong recruiters of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Laurence Howells said: “Scotland’s colleges and universities are welcoming a more diverse range of people than ever before and helping them to succeed in their studies and in their lives beyond education. Today’s figures also show that more students are going on from college to study at university. We recently invested £10 million to support further progress and I’m looking forward to working with all our partners - schools, colleges, universities and students themselves to build on these successes.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell said: “I am very pleased to see our ongoing commitment to open up further and higher education to students from all backgrounds is making a difference. We have been clear that the ability to learn rather than pay is at the heart of our system and we are committed to reducing the barriers that prevent people continuing in education.

“The Scottish Government has used a range of actions to widen access, from outcome agreements with colleges and universities, the Post 16 Education Act, of the introduction of additional funded places and a guaranteed minimum income of £7,500 for students from the poorest backgrounds and I am glad to see it is making a difference.”

At the end of last year, the Scottish Funding Council invested £10 million to help widen access to higher education for students from poorer backgrounds. The money helped to create around 2,000 extra university places with over half of these going to young people moving on from college to university.

The Scottish Funding Council's annual Learning for All Conference will be held in Edinburgh on 13 November.