The Scottish Commission on Widening Access has published its final report. The Sutton Trust is widely quoted in the report, including reference to our programme in secondary schools for highly able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – Sutton Scholars. Conor Ryan, Sutton Trust Director of Research and Communications, was a member of the Commission. Sir Peter Lampl’s response to the report may be found here.

The report notes that 18 year-olds from Scotland’s 20% least deprived communities are more than four times as likely to enter university as those from the 20% most deprived communities and, for those who wish to enter the most selective institutions, the position is considerably worse.

Many of its recommendations have been influenced by the work and advice of the Sutton Trust, including:

  • The Scottish Government should appoint a Commissioner for Fair Access by the end of 2016 to:
    • lead cohesive and system wide efforts to drive fair access in Scotland; acting as an
    • advocate for access for disadvantaged learners and holding to account those with a
    • role to play in achieving equal access.
    • coordinate and prioritise the development of a more substantial evidence base on
    • the issues most pertinent to fair access, including the commissioning and publication
    • of independent research. The Scottish Government should ensure an appropriate
    • annual budget is made available to support this work.
    • publish, annually, a report to Ministers outlining the Commissioner’s views on
    • progress towards equal access in Scotland to inform development of effective policy
    • at national, regional and institutional level.
  • By 2018, the Commissioner for Fair Access, working with experts, should publish a Scottish Framework for Fair Access.
  • By 2019 all universities should set access thresholds for all degree programmes against which learners from the most deprived backgrounds should be assessed.
  • All universities should be as open and transparent as possible over their use of access thresholds and wider contextual admissions policies.
  • By 2017, those with a care experience, who meet the access threshold should be entitled to the offer of a place at a Scottish university.
  • The Scottish Government should replace student living costs loans with a non-repayable bursary and provide a more flexible package of student support for learners with a care experience from academic year 2017/18.
  • To realise the First Minister’s ambition of equality of access to higher education in Scotland:
    • By 2030, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education. Equality of access should be seen in both the college sector and the university sector.
    • To drive progress toward this goal.
    • By 2021, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent at least 16% of full-time first-degree entrants to Scottish universities as a whole.
    • By 2021, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent at least 10% of full-time first degree entrants to every individual Scottish university.
    • By 2026, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent at least 18% of full-time first degree entrants to Scottish universities as a whole.
    • In 2022, the target of 10% for individual Scottish universities should be reviewed and a higher level target should be considered for the subsequent years.

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