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According to the latest national report on widening access, 5,595 learners from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland began a full-time first degree course in 2021-22.

The Scottish Funding Council figures also confirm universities and colleges once again met the Commission on Widening Access’s interim target of 16% of all Scottish-domiciled full-time first-degree entrants being from the 20% most deprived areas.

Colleges made an important contribution to the figures as over 45% of those starting a degree from Scotland’s deprived communities progressed from a college course, five per cent more than in the previous year. When taking into account both full and part-time study at degree level in Scotland’s colleges and universities just over 19% of entrants came from the 20% most deprived areas, rising to 20.3% for full-time students alone.

The number of care-experienced students beginning undergraduate HE courses in 2021-22 was 1,720, 35 more than in the preceding year. The figure represents a watershed in efforts to secure equality and respect in higher education for care-experienced people. The 2.0% of undergraduate HE entrants that are care-experienced is greater than the percentage of care-experienced children under 18 in the population (1.5%).

As efforts continue to support people combining their studies with caring responsibilities, the report found that 1,250 Scottish full-time first degree entrants were looking after someone else. In colleges. Over 10,900 enrolments were by those with caring responsibilities with over half of these student carers being over 25.

Martin Boyle, SFC’s Director of Policy, Insight and Analytics said:

“SFC’s report on widening access plays a key role in helping us to measure progress towards equality of opportunity in learning beyond people’s school years.

“Today’s figures show advances that should be celebrated as the positive effect of work being done by the Scottish Government, colleges and universities and the Scottish Funding Council. It’s wonderful to see good news coming out of our long-standing partnership with Who Cares? Scotland.

“The figures also point us to where more progress needs to be made and we are committed to doing that in collaboration with the Scottish Government and the sector.”