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Scrapped tuition fees does little to reduce attainment gap at Scottish universities

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The number of pupils attaining Highers and Advanced Highers (GCSE and A-level equivalent) has increased over the past year. 

However, the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils at university shows little change. 

The Scottish Attainment Challenge, backed by £750 million, was launched in 2015 to provide pupils from all economic backgrounds with the same chance of success, and subsequently close the gap. 

At its current rate, it is said to take 187 years for it to close completely. 

This issue of the class divide in education continues through to higher education. 

Whilst more pupils attended university in 2018 than the previous academic year, the number of lower-income students attending university (25.7%) was still proportionately low compared to 61.6% of their wealthier counterparts.   

Attending university in Scotland is free, so tuition fees are not the cause of these figures. However, students are still required to pay maintenance fees including living costs and so they still leave with a considerable amount of dept. 

According to a report published by The Sutton Trust, the scrapping of tuition fees does not actually help poorer students into university. As a result of the no fees policy, Scotland 'retains a cap on student places that has been removed in England.'

The Trust reports that the access gap is wider in Scotland because of the cap on student places. In England, students from low-income families previously received maintenance grants to help with the cost of living - now loans are only available through Student Finance England. 

In response to the attainment goal, the University of Edinburgh reduced its requirements to study Law from five A grades in their Highers to ABBB.

The wide attainment gulf between young people contributes to high levels of crime in poorer areas of Scotland.

Young people are significantly more likely to commit a crime if they are from poorer families. Therefore, providing work and educational opportunities for young people from poorer areas is necessary if the country wants to reduce the amount of knife-crime in Scotland. 

The number of knife-related homicides in Scotland over the last decade has halved and part of it is down to an increase in work and educational opportunities for young people in place of gang membership.

Image credit:M00by




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