St Andrews ranked second-to-last for widening access

The only university with a lower score than St Andrews in the UK was the University of Cambridge.

Illustration: Edward Emery

The University of St Andrews has scored second lowest in the United Kingdom for student admissions equality, according to a Higher Education Policy Report.

In an index measuring equity of student participation at 132 universities in the UK, St Andrews was revealed to be the worst in Scotland.

This means that students from economically deprived areas are less likely to attend St Andrews than they are any other Scottish university.

The only university with a lower score than St Andrews in the UK was the University of Cambridge.

The rankings were published on Thursday 5 April 2018 by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), a UK think tank that aims to shape higher education policy debate.

The index was included in a report that analyses the means by which universities approach widening participation and ensuring access to people from all backgrounds. The University of Hull topped the rankings as the most equitable university in the UK. The highest ranked Scottish university for equality was University of the West of Scotland, though it only scored 87th best on the UK-wide index.

Three Scottish universities, in addition to St Andrews, fell in the bot tom 10 for equity: Robert Gordon University (124th), the University ofEdinburgh (127th) and the University of Aberdeen (128th).

The University of St Andrews has been criticised previously for failing to accommodate more people from economically deprived backgrounds.

According to entry figures for 2015-2016, The Saint reported last year that the University of St Andrews had significantly fewer state-educated pupils than any other higher education institution in Scotland.

This made St Andrews the second most privately educated mainstream university in the UK.

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said, “It remains surprisingly controversial with some people to suggest that our oldest universities should mirror our society more closely. Learning outcomes are better when students from diverse backgrounds study alongside each other.”

Mr Hillman believes that the biggest impediment to ensuring admissions equality is the fear amongst those who dominate elite universities that they will be ousted.

In response to St Andrews’ place in the rankings, Luke Humberstone, President of the National Union of Students Scotland, said, “Elitism is alive and well in some parts of our education system.”

However, St Andrews maintains that it is progressing in widening access to the university.

A University of St Andrews spokesman said: “In terms of widening participation, we are the most improved mainstream institution in Scotland. Almost half of all Scottish students admitted to St Andrews this year 2017/18 came with an access marker such as, a background of in care, residing in areas of socio-economic deprivation as indicated by SIMD or from a low progression school.

“That figure has grown from 39 per cent to 49 per cent in the space of a year. Our clear plan of action includes a programme of support through Gateway Programmes, first year mentoring, and guaranteed bursaries of £1500 per year of study for all those with a family income of £34,000 or less.

“We are proud of the work we have done thus far to improve the diversity of our student body and we will continue to work to ensure fairness is at the core of our student recruitment and admissions.”


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