The latest higher education guide from The Sunday Times has revealed St Andrews as the second-worst University in the UK for social inclusivity.
Out of 133 institutions, The Good University Guide 2019 ranked St Andrews second to Oxford for the lowest overall admissions from state schools.
In Scotland specifically, St Andrews scores lowest for recruiting students from economically deprived areas.
The findings were published on 23 September 2018 by The Sunday Times, as part of an annual league table of Britain’s best universities.
The report found Oxford, St Andrews, Cambridge, Durham, and Bristol to be the least socially inclusive institutions.
The research showed that just 3.5 per cent of the annual intake at St Andrews is drawn from the poorest 20 per cent of neighbourhoods, in comparison with 34.8 per cent at Sunderland University.
Overall, Glyndwr University, London Metropolitan, and London South Bank scored top for social inclusivity, but list at 129, 131, and 107 respectively in the overall academic ranking.
Meanwhile, De Montfort University in Leicester was praised for striking the balance between the two, coming in at 65th for academic standards and 16th for social diversity.
Following the publication of these results, Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times guide, said that Britain’s top universities could do plenty more to ensure “true diversity in their student intake.”
In recent years, Britain’s leading universities have consistently come under criticism for poor social diversity.
In 2017, it was revealed that just 11 per cent of new undergraduates at Oxford University were from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that white British applicants were twice as likely to get a place than black students.
In reaction to this, it is now understood that the new Office for Students is working on plans that could penalise elite universities by capping fees and imposing fines if they do not make greater efforts to improve access.
Nicola Dandrige, chief executive of the Office for Students, warned, “If any…make no progress we will not hesitate to act.
“Too many talented people from disadvantaged backgrounds still miss out on the life-changing benefits of higher education. These universities must do more to ensure that they are not only recruiting students from the widest range of backgrounds, but also supporting them through their studies so they can go on to have good careers.”
In response to the Times’ results, a spokesman for the University of St Andrews said, “We are firmly on course to meet the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets for widening access to universities.
“Our progress is reflective of a long-running and sustained campaign at St Andrews to attract and support the brightest students from all walks of life.
“Almost half of all Scottish students admitted to St Andrews in 2017/18 come from deprived areas, were in receipt of free school meals, came from a low progression school, or had a background in care.
That figure has grown from 39 per cent to 49 per cent in the space of a year.
The spokesman continued, “This progress reflects a plan of action including 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; and places us ahead of schedule in meeting the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets.
“We are proud to be the most improved mainstream institution in Scotland, in terms of widening access, and will continue to work to ensure fairness is at the core of our student recruitment and admissions.”