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St Andrews fails to attract disadvantaged students
|News||Mon, 04 Jun 2012||Tweet|
by Parker Burns
A Freedom of Information request by NUS Scotland has revealed that the University of St Andrews only admitted 13 Scottish students from the most deprived backgrounds (SIMD) in 2011.
The report, which includes figures from other Scottish universities, shows that although St Andrews had the lowest total number of SIMD admissions, St Andrews' admittance figure of 13 SIMD students out of a total undergraduate population of 7,370 compares drastically with Aberdeen's 51 out of 12,195 and Edinburgh's 91 out 17,570.
Although all three figures make for depressing reading, Robin Parker, President of NUS Scotland, believed the report would prompt these universities to do more to widen access in Scotland. "Making access fairer is incredibly important, but that doesn't mean it's difficult to do. While these statistics are truly awful, the silver lining is that they show that we can make really good progress with only small numbers of students… For St Andrews to get to the same level would only take another 35 students per year, out of a student population of over 9,000."
In a statement toThe Stand, St Andrews has reacted indignantly to the NUS's failure to seek comment or explanation from the universities before publishing their report. They point out that despite various outreach projects, innovative programs and summer schools "for every three offers St Andrews makes to students from deprived backgrounds in Scotland, only one accepts, despite significant and increasing levels of scholarship support."
These projects include the much lauded, First Chances initiative.
"Proportionately, we make more offers to students from deprived backgrounds than any other group. So few, however, achieve the grades necessary to succeed at university that those who do meet the entry standards become part of a very small, select pool in which all Scottish universities compete vigorously for the attention and favour of very few students."
The University went on to challenge the NUS's assertion that responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of universities. "It requires a concerted national effort on health, employment, housing and a culture of attainment at all levels of Scottish education to equip young people with the grades they need to gain entry and to succeed at university."
St Andrews Students Association President Patrick O'Hare told The Stand, "The figures on the numbers of students from deprived backgrounds getting into St Andrews and the other ancient Scottish Universities, especially Aberdeen and Edinburgh, are saddening for anyone who is passionate about accessibility in education."
Mr O'Hare went on to applaud the work of St Andrews' various widening access projects but believed that different tools for widening access may be necessary. "The Scottish Government should not ordinarily have to use the option of penalties if targets are not met, but given the failure to improve across the board over recent years, student leaders believe that it is important that targets are enforceable."