Widening access report could ‘lead to difficulties’ for universities

The ‘Blueprint for Fairness’ has laid out a range of recommendations, including one that will set a lower bar of entry for certain students, something the Scottish Conservatives have said is “bound to lead to difficulties” for universities.

The commission also revealed disparity across Scotland in relation to which courses were available to pupils at Higher level.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Conservatives revealed the Scottish Funding Council had been forced to drop part of its initiative to widen access because of Scottish Government funding cuts.

The party added that the two central ways of widening access – reducing the attainment gap and providing better bursary help for poorer students – have not been achieved by the SNP.

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said:

“This is a very thoughtful but, at times, controversial report since it is recommending that universities will be required to set minimum entrance requirements which are separate from standard entrance requirements.

“In other words, some students will be required to meet minimum entry requirements to guarantee a place but other students will be required to meet a higher bar of entry.

“This is bound to lead to difficulties for universities and it will certainly put added pressure on higher education funding since more places will have to be made available if no student is to be squeezed out.

“The challenge is even greater because the commission has also uncovered a wide variation across schools as to the availability of some Higher and Advanced Higher courses which are, of course, essential for university entrance.

“This problem automatically narrows choice for pupils and it is clear that there are teacher shortages in some specialist subjects which the SNP continues to ignore as a major problem in our schools.

“Of course, the two most important ways to tackle the access issue is to narrow the attainment gap in schools and provide much better bursary support for students from poorer backgrounds - both of which the SNP has failed to do.”