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Scottish universities failing to provide access for disadvantaged students

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Scottish universities are lagging behind colleges in providing access for disadvantaged students, according to a report.

90% of growth in higher education for disadvantaged students over the past ten years comes has come from colleges rather than universities, according to the Sutton Trust’s Access in Scotland report.

The report also reveals that students from the five wealthiest areas of Scotland are four times more likely to go to university than their fellow students in the five least advantaged regions.

Between 2013 and 2014, 55% of Scottish students began some form of continued education. 20.9% started at a Further Education (FE) college, whilst 34.1% went to university.

In the same period, 46.6% of English students continued their education - but only 6% started at an FE college.

The findings suggest that pursuing a university education is difficult for many Scottish students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Researchers, led by Professor Sheila Riddell of the University of Edinburgh (pictured), are using the findings to push for a new independent Commissioner for Fair Access.

They would also like to see a new Commission on Widening Access goal of a fifth of students from the 20% poorest areas of Scotland by 2030.

Riddell says that "despite free tuition, the Scottish university has much work to do in order to realise the goal of fair access."

It is hoped that the study will lead to increased funding for and awareness of the needs of disadvantaged students.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, added that improved access to higher education at the best universities is “vital”.

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