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Strathclyde set to hit Government widening access targets 10 years early

Campus viewed from Rottenrow

The University of Strathclyde is on course to achieve Scottish Government targets for widening participation in Higher Education 10 years ahead of schedule.

Strathclyde is continuing to support widening access students through the COVID-19 pandemic with remote mentoring and the introduction of a hardship fund for students under financial pressures.

Latest figures from the Scottish Funding Council show that, for the academic year 2018-19, the sector as a whole saw 15.9% of full-time, first degree entrants coming from the 20% most-challenged areas of Scotland.

The Scottish Government wants to see one in five new university entrants from Scotland coming from the 20% most-challenged communities by 2030. Universities are working towards an interim goal of reaching 16% of entrants from SIMD20 areas by 2021.

Strong position

Strathclyde’s own data for the academic year 2019-20 shows that the University welcomed more than 600 new students from the 20% most-challenged areas of Scotland and a total of around 1,200 new students from the 40% most disadvantaged areas.

This strong position, which puts Strathclyde at 19% against the Government’s 20% target, is built on sustained success. The University first met its own target of 1,000 entrants each year from the 40% most-challenged areas three years early, in 2017-18, and has made continuous progress since.

Widening access is being achieved without compromising on quality, with the 2020 Sunday Times Good University Guide ranking Strathclyde joint fifth in the UK and second in Scotland for entry standards.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal & Vice-Chancellor at the University of Strathclyde, said: “I am delighted to see the sector continue to improve its performance, and particularly pleased that Strathclyde is making such strong progress in this area.

“We’re committed to continuing our support for widening access students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mentoring programme

“Our mentoring programme for care-experienced and asylum seeker students has continued, moving to remote support via video conferencing, telephone and email. We’ve also launched a hardship fund to help support students in financial difficulties, while any student who needs to remain on campus in our residences has been able to do so.

“We continue to reach out to all students registered as care-experienced, a carer or estranged from their families to offer support and let them know about funding and wellbeing support.

“Strathclyde was founded during the Scottish Enlightenment as a socially-progressive institution with an ethos of providing ‘useful learning’ and education for anyone with ability to learn rather than ability to pay.

“We remain committed to that same guiding principle today; ability as the only determining factor for entry to Strathclyde.

I’m hugely proud that we’re welcoming so many students into our University from a diverse range of backgrounds who might not otherwise have felt university was for them.

“I grew up in Govan here in the heart of Glasgow to become the first person in my own family to go to University. Now in my role as the Principal of Strathclyde, I fully appreciate the benefits Higher Education can bring.

“That is why as an institution we’re committed to reaching out to the communities we serve, through initiatives like the Children’s University, the Scottish Space School, the Engineering Academy and our various mentoring programmes to raise aspirations and attainment.

“We will always work hard to raise aspirations and ensure we offer an outstanding student experience. We have been making year-on-year gains against our widening access targets over the last decade and we're delighted to be the research-intensive institution of choice for widening access students.

“Importantly, we’re achieving this while welcoming some of the most-qualified students in the UK which goes to show that Widening Access to Higher Education in no way means lowering standards.”

The Scottish Government uses the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) as a tool for identifying areas of deprivation and inequality across the country that require greater need for support and intervention, with much of the focus on the 20% most-deprived (SIMD-20).

The Scottish Funding Council publishes a report on Widening Access in Scottish universities in April every year, based on the latest available full year data.