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Fair Access

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We are committed to investing in education that is accessible to learners from all backgrounds and our actions contribute to delivering the targets and recommendations outlined in A Blueprint for Fairness.

We use our investments to do this in a number of ways:

  1. Core funds for colleges and universities.
  2. Access programmes to directly assist school pupils in getting into colleges and universities (National School Programme) and a programme to assist adult returners (Scottish Wider Access Programme).
  3. Our National Ambition for Care-experienced Students.
  4. Supporting policy for groups underrepresented or under-achieving in comparison to their peers such as carersveterans,  and estranged students.
  5. Providing support for the sector through Scottish Community of Access and Participation Practioners (SCAPP) Scottish Framework for Fair Access | SCAPP.
  6. Policy support for equality, mental health and well-being.

Shared and used data

SFC Report on Widening Access

This report presents data relating to the Commission on Widening Access targets, and on Scottish-domiciled entrants to higher and further education in Scotland by socio-economic deprivation, gender, ethnicity, disability, care experience and age.

Current and previous editions are available on our Statistics publication schedule.

Commission on Widening Access (CoWA)

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2014-15 set out the ambition that a child born at that time in one of Scotland’s most deprived communities should, by the time of leaving school, have the same chance of going to university as one born in one of the country’s least deprived areas.

The Commission on Widening Access was established to advise Ministers on how to meet this ambition. Its final report, A Blueprint for Fairness was published in March 2016.

Higher education – renewing the alliance for fair access: annual report 2024

The sixth annual report of the Commissioner for Fair Access concludes that much has already been achieved in delivering fair access to higher education in Scotland, but Professor John H. McKendrick considers how the framework for promoting fair access can be strengthened.

Stakeholders across and beyond the tertiary sector

Commissioner for Fair Access

The Commissioner for Fair Access is responsible for leading a system wide effort to deliver fair access in Scotland. Professor John McKendrick was appointed as the second Commissioner for Fair Access in January 2023. He succeeded Professor Sir Peter Scott, who had been in the role from December 2016 to May 2022.

Information on the role and responsibilities of the Commissioner  is available on the Scottish Government website. This includes the annual reports, discussion papers and speeches by Prof McKendrick’s predecessor. Professor McKendrick’s first annual report Higher education – renewing the alliance for fair access: annual report 2024 was published on 30 January 2024.

Scottish Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP)

SCAPP was established in January 2019 and is the only dedicated Scottish sector wide network for Widening Access (WA) and Widening Participation(WP) Practitioners, providing a coordinating role supporting Professional Learning and Development and networking opportunities for WA and WP professionals. SCAPP also supports professionals to achieve targets for access and to professionalise the sector.

SCAPP draws on the in-kind experience and commitment from partners to deliver a wide range of purposeful and relevant events and activities around Articulation, Evaluation and Learning and Development.

SCAPP represents a key recommendation of the Blueprint for Fairness.

For more information please contact
Anna Wallace, tel: 0131 313 6605, email:

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP)

The Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) works in partnership with colleges and Higher Education Institutions across Scotland to provide routes into Higher Education for adults with few or no qualifications, or whose qualifications are out of date.

SWAP Access Programmes are one year full-time courses at colleges across Scotland. Successful completion of a SWAP Access Programme can lead to a place on a Higher National or degree course at a college or university.

For details of current SWAP programmes running at different colleges, please see:

For more information, please contact
Anna Wallace, tel: 0131 313 6605, email:

National Schools Programme

The National Schools Programme works closely with experts across universities, colleges, and schools to unify existing, successful projects into a cohesive national approach to the delivery of targets identified in A Blueprint for Fairness: Final Report of the Commission on Widening Access.

More information on the National Schools Programme.

For more information, please contact
Steph Kirkham, tel: 0131 313 6652, email:

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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