Strathclyde exceeds widening access targets – two years early

Group of students

The University of Strathclyde has exceeded its targets for recruiting students from traditionally low-participation groups – two years ahead of schedule.

The University admitted more than 1000 new students for the current year from the 40% most disadvantaged areas in Scotland – having aimed to do so by 2020.

These students accounted for around 35% of the total Scottish-domiciled entrants, according to Strathclyde’s own figures. Strathclyde set a target in its current Strategic Plan of an annual intake by 2020 of 1000 students from the most deprived 40% areas, identified as SIMD0-40.

The news comes as Universities Scotland publishes its report Working To Widen Access, which outlines the higher education sector’s actions to widen access to university for learners from Scotland’s most deprived areas. It also follows a call by the Sutton Trust education and social mobility foundation for greater action on removing barriers to higher education for people from low- and moderate-income backgrounds. 

The Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access, which reported in 2016, recommended that entrants from the 20% most deprived areas should represent at least 16% of full-time first degree higher education entrants by 2021 across the Scottish HE sector; this target has also been achieved at Strathclyde this year, with over 500 (17%) entrants from SIMD0-20.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “Strathclyde has always been at the forefront of ensuring people who have the ability to study have the opportunity to do so and do not miss out because of their social or economic circumstances.

“Our founder, John Anderson, was well ahead of his time in advocating, in the 18th century, the education of men and women of all classes. Today, this vision is as important as ever; as a socially progressive university, we want our students’ talent to be developed to the highest level and the talent pool to be as wide as it can be.”

Strathclyde was also above the national average in increasing its proportion of students from these 20% most deprived areas, according to other recently-released data from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). SIMD0-20 participation at Strathclyde rose by 1.9% in the year to 2015-16, compared with a national increase of 0.3%.


The SFC figures show that Strathclyde is Scotland’s leading research-intensive University for new entrants from the 20% most deprived areas (SIMD0-20), with a total of 425 entrants in 2015-16, up 55 from the previous year.

Strathclyde was the 2017 winner in the Outstanding Strategic Planning Team category of the UK-wide Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards, for a bespoke system for tracking student applications that which has played a major role in the University’s emergence as a leader in widening access to higher education.

Strathclyde pursues many Widening Access initiatives, including:

  • the Strathclyde Cares programme – the first of its kind in the UK– which helps students with experience of the care system throughout their higher education journey, from pre-application to graduation and beyond.
  • the Engineering Academy, which offers students routes into university and employment
  • partnership in Scotland’s first Children’s University, which enables children aged seven to 14 to widen their skills and interests, while providing a new and innovative route to further and higher education
  • partnership with the MCR Pathways programme, which provides mentoring to pupils who have experienced the care system
  • the Trans.Edu project, examining the support needs of transgender applicants, students and staff in universities and colleges across Scotland
  • support for students who are estranged from their families through the charity Stand Alone
  • the Young Strathclyders programme, which provides specifically tailored, one-to-one support in the process of studying for, and applying to, higher education.
  • the Strathclyde Literacy Clinic, based in the School of Education, which improves pupils’ literacy through face-to-face tuition. A large number of BEd students volunteer to take part
  • Strathclyde is an age-friendly university which, through its Centre for Lifelong Learning, is one of the foremost providers of education to people in later life. It also runs an Age Friendly Academy, designed to highlight the University’s commitment to the concept of positive aging by offering learning opportunities throughout the course of life.