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Students from Scotland’s most deprived areas are significantly less likely to study at postgraduate level and even with a postgraduate qualification they will not have the same career opportunities.

The finding comes in a new discussion paper from Professor Sir Peter Scott, Scotland’s Commissioner for Fair Access. The paper focuses on the interplay between where people obtain their first degree, the subjects they studied and what happens to them after their postgraduate qualification.

According to the Commissioner, the gap in continuation to postgraduate study is partly explained by students from deprived areas being more likely have graduated in a subject where fewer students go on to take a postgraduate course. Sir Peter argues that another factor is the concentration of socially deprived students in universities with lower rates of progression to postgraduate studies. Finally, he points to evidence of discrimination that reaches beyond school and university and into the professions.

According to Sir Peter, inequality in postgraduate education will continue unless there is a better spread of socially disadvantaged students across a wider range of subjects, including those such as law and the physical sciences which have the highest progression rates to postgraduate study.

The Commissioner’s paper, Access to postgraduate study – representation and destinations, is now available on the Scottish Government’s website.