The University of St Andrews has filled all of the 20 extra places that were allocated in a government scheme to ensure that more students from deprived backgrounds were able to study at Scottish universities.
Last year the Scottish government introduced a new initiative to get more students from deprived backgrounds into higher education. They funded an extra 727 places across Scotland.
In the past St Andrews has been criticised for accepting only a small number of students from deprived backgrounds.
In 2012 the University admitted just 15 students from SIMD 20 (the least wealthy 20 per cent of postcode areas) backgrounds. NUS Scotland described these figures as “awful” and “shocking.”
The University continued to promote existing widening access schemes such as Sutton Trust, REACH and First Chances projects. It also set up the ‘Beyond Fife’ project in conjunction with the Students’ Association to ensure that these projects were reaching children and teenagers outside Fife. The latest figures suggest that the initiatives are working and the number of students coming to the University from deprived backgrounds has begun to rise.
Chloe Hill, president of the Students’ Association, commented: “This figure is a considerable improvement on last year’s disappointing figures. I hope it shows we are serious about making this university open and accessible to everyone and that the figure continues to rise.”
Across Scotland, the University of Aberdeen was criticised because it did not fill any of the additional 75 access places it was allocated. The University of Glasgow recruited the most students from the 40 per cent of poorest postcode areas, with 175 signed up from a total target of 200.
The higher education sector has also been successful at filling the 1020 extra places allocated under a separate route to encourage college students into a degree course – so-called articulation – with 98 per cent of the total reached.
The overall performance was welcomed by student representatives and the university sector.
Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said: “These figures offer some very positive signs that efforts to improve fair access are working. There are still some institutions that can clearly do better, with the University of Aberdeen in particular standing out, but there’s some great work going on right across institutions in Scotland.”
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said: “This means over 1,600 students, living in the most deprived parts of Scotland, have started university this autumn or will be coming straight from college in a year or two’s time who might not otherwise have had the chance.”
Laurence Howells, interim chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, which administers the scheme on behalf of the Scottish government, said: “Universities have responded very positively to this pioneering initiative. Next year, with a longer recruitment cycle, even more students will benefit.
“What’s especially good is that these are all additional places added into the system for the first time so around 600 talented students from poorer areas now beginning their university education. That’s a great result.”