The St Andrews University student population was once described
Scottish News: Some Scottish universities not widening access to poor
by Leah Pears
Some Scottish universities have been accused of “dragging their feet” over widening access to university places.
The Scottish government is providing over £10mn for an extra 2,000 university places for young people in a bid to widen access in the 2013/14 academic year. Half of these places will go to students going from college into university, while around 700 will go to students from deprived backgrounds and a further 300 to the Skills for Growth scheme.
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Out of the 727 places funded, universities chose how many they required, however some of Scotland’s oldest universities have held back on their uptake.
According to recent figures, St Andrews University took up 20 such places and Edinburgh University took 50. In contrast, Glasgow University and Dundee University have taken over 200 places each, while Stirling University took 180.
"Scotland needs to do more to promote fairer access to higher education. While some universities have taken this message on board, others have shown a disappointing lack of ambition in the number of places they've asked for.” said Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland.
"Those universities that have taken up large numbers of these new places, like Glasgow and Stirling, deserve great credit. However, it's incredibly frustrating that others are still dragging their feet.”
Figures released by NUS Scotland showed that in 2011, 2.9 percent of young students at St Andrews University were from the lowest socio-economic background, with 2.4 and 3.1 percent for Edinburgh and Aberdeen respectively. This is compared to 20.3 percent at the University of West Scotland and 14.9 at Glasgow Caledonian.
A spokesman for St Andrews said: "We are one of the nation's smallest universities and account for less than 2% of Scotland's university capacity.”
"Given that it is now established that so few school pupils from the most deprived areas in Scotland are being supported to achieve basic university entry grades our target is, by any standards, ambitious and fair."
However, student leaders have speculated that it will only take small increases in admissions to make universities fairer. For example, if St Andrews admitted 35 more students from deprived backgrounds it would double their intake.
The row came after all 19 of Scotland’s university principals signed up to an agreement earlier in December in a bid to widen access to applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds and improve retention rates of these students.
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