The Commission on Widening Access, a Scottish Government backed commission into widening access into higher education in Scotland, Chaired by educationalist Dame Ruth Silver, has published its interim report today. The Sutton Trust was quoted several times in the report, including a mention of its programmes and research into the ‘applicant gap’. Conor Ryan, the Sutton Trust’s Director of Research and Communications, is a member of the commission.


The key barriers the commission identified include:

  • Early years attainment gap
  • School attainment gap
  • Low aspirations
  • Lack of parental experience of higher education
  • Lack of quality advice and guidance in schools and in the family home
  • Secondary school subject choice, including clear advice and guidance on the consequences of decisions
  • Lack of quality advice and guidance on student finance

Cultural barriers e.g. the feeling of not fitting in


The key systemic issues the commission identified include:

  • Alignment of pathways between schools, colleges and universities
  • Lack of evidence on types of access programmes that have most impact
  • Need for more coherence and collaboration on outreach activity
  • The need to expand and maximise the impact of contextual admissions
  • The need to expand and maximise the impact of articulation pathways
  • Admissions processes placing greater value on experiences more likely to be available to more affluent socioeconomic groups
  • Inconsistent approach to using data to identify those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged

The need for better data to support targets and monitor progress

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