Access to higher education for people from less advantaged backgrounds in Scotland and the rest of the UK

  • Riddell, Sheila (Principal Investigator)
  • Hunter Blackburn, Lucy (Researcher)
  • Kadar-Satat, Gitit (Researcher)
  • Weedon, Elisabet (Co-Investigator (External))

Project Details


The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to social justice principles and recognises the need for firmer action to tackle the social class gap in higher education participation. In a recent policy statement, Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, stated: ‘… a child born today in one of our most deprived communities should have no less a chance of entering higher education than a child born in one of our least deprived. We want every child – whatever their background – to have an equal chance of attending university’. In order to identify the action needed to ensure that 20% of higher education students are drawn from the most socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods, a Commission on Widening Access chaired by Dame Ruth Silver was set up by the Scottish Government in 2015, reporting in 2016. A similar commitment to widen participation of people from disadvantaged backgrounds has been made by the Minister of State for Universities and Science in England (BIS, 2015), and social justice is one of the guiding principles of the Diamond Committee which is currently reviewing the provision of higher education in Wales.

This research, which builds on earlier analysis of higher education across the UK (Riddell et al, 2015), provides an analysis of:

- Higher education initial participation rates (HEIPR) in Scotland and the rest of the UK by neighbourhood deprivation;
- Participation in different types of university by neighbourhood deprivation, social class (measured by parental occupation) and type of school attended;
- Changes in HEIPR and in the social profile of different types of institution over time;
- The social profile of comparable institutions using HESA benchmarks; and
- The current state of play with regard to widening access activity in Scottish higher education institutions, particularly the ancient universities.
Effective start/end date1/01/1615/07/16


  • UK-based charities: £14,508.00


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