Scottish universities worst in the UK for admitting poorer students – despite having no tuition fees

[Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty.]

[Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty.]

This is a devastating blow for the SNP government in Scotland.

One of the keystones of its success has been the claim that it has been working for the benefit of everyone in Scotland, and for equality of opportunity.

But This Blog made it clear that this claim was false – more than a year ago.

I wrote:

“Holyrood abolished tuition fees for Scottish universities – but who did that help? According to research by Edinburgh University in 2013, it helped those who were already wealthy.

“The report on widening access to higher education was submitted to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) after Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the university principal hand-picked by SNP ministers to review higher education, said abolishing tuition fees has mainly benefited the middle classes.

“The report found the lack of fees in Scotland has meant initiatives to widen access have had “lower priority” and less funding.

“The amount of grants available to poorer Scots has fallen and the funding packages offered north of the Border are virtually the same, regardless of the student’s wealth.

“Meanwhile, there has been a huge drop in the number of students attending colleges since the SNP came to power in Holyrood and inflicted “savage spending cuts”, axing part-time courses which MSPs derided as “hobby courses”. The figures came from the Scottish Funding Council and show that 130,000 college places and teaching staff have been lost.

“Those most affected by the cuts are young people who are less academic and are looking for vocational qualifications, and women returners – it was said that 100,000 fewer women were in education as a result of the SNP’s cuts.

“So the SNP’s education policy is to penalise the poor and reward the rich. So much for that party’s left-wing credentials!”

How right I was.

Particularly interesting is the new finding that colleges are better at getting disadvantaged students into higher education than universities, given the fact that the SNP has been starving those institutions of resources.

The response from supporters of the nationalist party should be interesting.

Despite offering free tuition, Scotland has the worst record than anywhere else in the UK when it comes to getting students from poorer backgrounds into university, says new report.

The Access to Scotland report from social mobility charity The Sutton Trust has found there to be a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor young people entering higher education (HE) across the UK in recent years.

However, despite improvements, young disadvantaged Scottish people are four times less likely to go to university than their wealthier counterparts. In England the same figure is 2.4, while in Wales and Northern Ireland, poorer students are three times more likely to do so.

The report has also found that virtually all the improvements in getting disadvantaged Scottish students places in HE over the last decade (90 per cent) has been provided by colleges, and not universities.

Source: Scottish universities worst in the UK for admitting poorer students, despite having no tuition fees | Getting Into University | Student | The Independent


Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


5 thoughts on “Scottish universities worst in the UK for admitting poorer students – despite having no tuition fees

  1. Joan Edington

    Something never mentioned when quoting these figures is that over 20% of Scots who go to universities go to college first. Their numbers aren’t included as people going to University. Only 6% ofEnglish students go to university via college.

    This results in another fact, conveniently never mentioned, that if you include college and university, a higher % go to higher education in Scotland than in England.

    Admittedly the college route has limited access to some top courses, such as medicine and law. So those who enter university by this route are more likely to end up in lower paid jobs. Still not ideal, but not the scandalous situation the media make out.

      1. Joan Edington

        No Mike. I’m just using the figures from the report. They say 55% of Scots go on to HE (university) as against 46.6% of English students.
        The make-up is 34.1% Scots to 40.6% English going straight from school. This is the breakdown that unionists and the media tend to use, for whatever you believe is their reason.

        Unfortunately, it is the less well-off that tend to start in colleges and therefore end up with restricted entry to some of the courses that result in better-paid jobs, thereby continuing the circle.

        I don’t know what the answer is exactly. I believe strongly in free education being every child’s right. However, to enable universities to function they need money. Currently they need to attract foreign pupils, to make that money, resulting in a cap to the numbers of Scottish pupils taken straight from school. The desire of the students is there, as evidenced by the high figures including college intakes, but cash is the issue. Fees would simply make it less likely that disadvantaged pupils would be able to go to university straight from school. It would up our media-quoted figures but not actually improve the situation.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        So you’re saying the author of the original article has misunderstood the figures and I’m barking up the wrong tree?
        Interesting. I’ll have to revisit this.
        … Unless another reader has an educated opinion to add?

      3. Joan Edington

        By all means get an educated person to comment. Since I did not go to university myself, I am obviously un-educated.

Comments are closed.