Sally Mapstone to Lead Higher Education Review

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Professor Mapstone delivers her installment address. Photo: The Saint

Newly appointed University Principal Professor Sally Mapstone has already set out plans to help widen access in the higher education (HE) sector.

Universities Scotland has appointed three principals to lead these work streams and ensure that institutions of higher education make progress on their undergraduate admissions policies and widening access schemes.

In a Universities Scotland press release, Professor Mapstone said, “University leaders said in Futures Not Backgrounds that we would review admission policies and procedures to ensure that we provide more opportunities to recognise and reward the talent and potential of applicants from disadvantaged  backgrounds.  Across Scotland, contextual admissions are being used extensively.

“We will look to identify and share best practice in the use of contextual admissions as well consider how to make the use of contextual admissions better understood by potential applicants, parents, guardians, teachers and others.”

Futures Not Backgrounds is a set of proposed actions from Universities Scotland to help the sector expand its inclusivity for students across all member institutions. 

Professor Mapstone’s work on the admissions team will aim to neutralise the admissions process to allow students from all backgrounds to be considered.

Measures to level the playing field may include adjusting offers to highlight that not everyone has been provided with the same opportunities in the run up to applying to university, a system known as contextualised admissions.

In her November 2016 installation speech, Professor Mapstone stated that widening access should be “central” to the mission of the institution and, although the focus of the workstream will be on Scotland, “there is also much work to be done on questions of access within an international context.”

“We must become more clearly inclusive.  This is not something around the edges of what we are as a university.

It is central to how we are and to how we attract the best and the brightest to us at all levels and how we retain them,” she added.

The University has the  highest proportion of students from private schools in Scotland, standing at around 40 per cent.

Since a 2011 incident in which the University was under attack for recruiting just 13 students from the most deprived backgrounds, St Andrews has made it a top priority to improve access and plans on being more “open and diverse.”

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