Scottish university application gap narrows

generic students Image copyright SPL

Scotland's university application gap has narrowed slightly, with an increase in the number of people from deprived backgrounds applying for a place.

But those from more affluent areas are still far more likely to want to go to university, according to Ucas figures.

They showed 15.1% of youngsters from the poorest areas in Scotland submitted an application in 2015, up from 10.1% in 2006.

The application rate for the least-deprived areas was 52% this year.

That was up from 49.6% in 2006, the data showed.

There has been concern about an "attainment gap" in Scotland's education system between those from the wealthiest and least well-off areas of the country.

Education Secretary Angela Constance said the Ucas figures suggested that "welcome progress" was being made towards the long-term target of eradicating inequality in access to higher education.

But she acknowledged there was "undoubtedly more to do".

'Paying off'

The Scottish government has set up a Commission on Widening Access, chaired by Dame Ruth Silver, which has begun its work to advise ministers on how best to tackle inequality in the education system.

Universities Scotland welcomed the the 50% growth in demand from those in Scotland's most deprived areas since 2006, which it said was testament to some of the work that universities were doing with young people and schools to raise aspiration in these groups.

Its director, Alastair Sim, said: "However, while the latest educational attainment figures published by the Scottish government earlier this week show that learners' attainment is improving in the most deprived areas they are still half as likely as the least deprived to achieve at Higher and Advanced Higher level.

"In order for these learners to fully realise their ambitions, and for universities to realise their goals to widen access, all education partners in Scotland must work together to close the education attainment gap."

NUS Scotland, which represents the country's students, welcomed the Ucas figures but urged universities and the Scottish government to ensure that the increase in applications translated to an increase in entries.

Its president-elect, Vonnie Sandlan, said the statistics suggested that the "hard work" done over the past few years to boost fair access to education was paying off.

She added: "It's clear that any lack of students from deprived backgrounds in our universities isn't due to a lack of aspiration on their part, as given the chance they have just as much potential to succeed as anyone else.

"It's incumbent on everyone working in Scottish higher education to carry this good work forward, and to ensure these increases continue.

"However, an increase in applications among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds doesn't necessarily equate to more of these young people actually being offered a place at university. The key will be ensuring that applicants become entrants."

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