“… Scotland can justly claim to be the pace-setter among the nations of the United Kingdom in opening up opportunities for higher education to all groups in the community”.
On 5 June the third Annual Report from the Commissioner for Fair Access to universities and colleges in Scotland was published.
It reports sustained progress towards meeting the Scottish Government’s nearer term, interim target for ‘fair access’:
- 16 per cent of new entrants to higher education from the 20 per cent most deprived communities in Scotland by 2021 – “which has already effectively been achieved”.
It also reports that fair access has “become embedded in the priorities of institutions in a wider sense rather than being confined to meeting these targets. A focus on fair access now pervades most aspects of higher education” in Scotland.
The Commissioner states:
“Scotland has made remarkable progress towards fair access to higher education, which is a tribute to leadership from the top in the government and the SFC (Scottish Funding Council), the commitment of university and college sector and institutional leaders and – above all perhaps – the energy and dedication of those on the front line of access.”
“It provides a model for the rest of the United Kingdom and wider efforts across Europe to address entrenched inequality in participation in higher education”.
Notwithstanding the Commissioner’s rehearsal of the substantial, often well recognised issues still to be addressed – “Fair access will never be ‘done’.” – he notes:
“Scotland’s success has owed a lot to a broader vision of fair access – as a wider social reform project rather than simply a limited exercise in remedying the ‘deficits’ of students from more deprived communities. It is that breadth of vision that will lead to further advances towards fair access in the coming decade, ….”
In welcoming the report, Universities Scotland on its website notes:
“Last year, Universities Scotland’s focus was on supporting universities to deliver minimum entry requirements and guaranteed offers for applicants with experience of care. This year, we’ve invested a lot of time with students and with our partners in the college sector looking at how to increase the amount of articulation with full credit given.”
(‘Articulation’: a key process in the establishment of an integrated tertiary education system, rather than discrete university and college, higher education and further education, education and training sectors in Scotland. The Commissioner is pressing for a step-change in the proportion of Higher National students entering degree courses who are given advanced standing.)
As a final thought, the BBC Scotland’s education correspondent MUST know about this important Annual Report from the Commissioner for Fair Access. Serious question: has anyone spotted coverage of its conclusions?