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Fair Access

Scotland’s Commissioner for Fair Access, Professor John McKendrick, has published his first annual report since taking up the post last year. In his report, Professor McKendrick considers how the framework for promoting fair access can be further strengthened.

Fair access is a commitment to ensure that learners from Scotland’s most disadvantaged backgrounds are able to realise their potential through higher education. The aim is that by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived areas should represent 20% of entrants to higher education.

The report confirms the 2021 interim target of 16% was met but also notes a slight fall from 16.7% to 16.5% in the proportion of entrants to Scottish higher education institutions from the most deprived areas last year. The focus is now on the 2026 goal of 18%.

The Commissioner aims to produce a second report later this year following the publication of the Scottish Funding Council’s 2022-23 Report on Widening Access. The SFC report includes information on students progressing onto their second year of study. As part of a wider call for a better understanding of students’ experiences and outcomes the Commissioner has called for future reports to track progression rates for all years of study and changes in the use of the SIMD20 measure.

The Commissioner recognised the success of Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP), established in 2019 to support the professional development of staff working in widening access teams, and asked the Scottish Funding Council to commit to more secure and longer-term funding, It is funded by SFC alongside the National School Programme and the Scottish Wider Access Programme.

In a further recommendation, the Commissioner asks SFC and its partners to look into creating a new web-based resource to give prospective students an easy and accessible way of finding the support they need to help them into higher education.

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said,

“We welcome the Commissioner’s report and recognise the important work that takes place in universities and colleges across Scotland in creating fairer access to higher education.

“While progress has been made, it is also clear there is still work to do. The Scottish Funding Council will continue to play a full role in tackling this collective challenge, with the Commissioner, the universities and colleges we fund, and wider stakeholders, in order to support the achievement of the 20% target by 2030.”

Higher education – renewing the alliance for fair access: annual report 2024 is published on the Scottish Government website.