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The latest figures on widening access to further and higher education in Scotland have been published today by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). They show that a national target for entry to university degree courses has been met two years earlier than expected.
According to the report, 16.4 percent of people living in Scotland and starting a full time degree course in 2019-20 came from the country’s 20 percent most deprived areas. The target, set in 2016 by the Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access, was for people from these areas to make up 16 percent of first degree entrants to Scottish universities by 2021.
Today’s figures also show that, at an overall tertiary education level, there is already equality of access for those living in Scotland’s most deprived communities; 21.4 percent of entrants onto full-time undergraduate higher education courses came from these areas.
Looking specifically at colleges which, in Scotland, provide a substantial proportion of higher education, the 2019-20 figures show that over 25 percent of those starting higher education courses came from the 20 percent most deprived communities.   
The figures in today’s report also measure progress towards better outcomes for care-experienced students, where studies show that education plays an especially important role in helping people to achieve their potential. Here, the latest statistics show a rise in care-experienced students starting an undergraduate course at a Scottish college or university. This represents over 400 more care-experienced people on their way to an HE qualification than in the previous year.
Speaking about the findings of the Report on Widening Access, SFC’s Director of  Access, Learning and Outcomes, James Dunphy), said: 
“Widening access to higher education is incredibly important because it can disrupt cycles of deprivation and level up opportunities for under-represented groups in our society.
“We should celebrate the progress reflected in this report. However, the pandemic and the real-life experiences of students remind us that circumstances can change very quickly and that we need to constantly redefine the challenges of widening access and design systems that can flex to them.

Responding better to the changing needs of learners and society is a key part of the recommendations in our review of Tertiary Education and Research, and we are preparing to work towards this with our partners.”

Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training Jamie Hepburn, said:
“All learners should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential regardless of background or circumstances, so it is great to see the number of Scots from the most deprived areas at university hit a record high in 2019-20.
“By exceeding the Widening Access interim target early, our universities continue to demonstrate their progress in admitting students based on their potential, and not just past academic achievement.
“It is also positive to see over a fifth (21.4%) of full-time undergraduate entrants coming from the most deprived areas in Scotland when looking at the college and university sectors combined. 
“I also welcome the latest Annual Report from the Commissioner for Fair Access, also published today, which continues to challenge both policymakers and the sector to do more to improve the accessibility of higher education in Scotland, especially given the additional complexity created by COVID-19. I will consider this report and its recommendations carefully.”