University pledges to double widening access target by next year

University pledges to double widening access target by next year

The University of Aberdeen has pledged to double the number of full-time Scottish degree students it recruits from SIMD20 areas by next year, as part of its commitment to improve access to higher education.

Principal George Boyne announced the move to recruit 10 per cent of its Scottish students from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland from September 2019 during a visit to the University by Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.

The Minister met students from the University’s School of Education, and took part in a roundtable discussion with Professor Boyne which covered the challenges faced by the University in attracting students from widening access backgrounds. 

In recent years the University has recruited only between 4 and 5 per cent of students from SIMD20 areas, largely due to the very low proportion of postcode areas classified as such in the north-east, an important recruitment area.

In line with the Commission on Widening Access, and in recognition of these challenges, The Scottish Funding Council has set the University a target of 8% - slightly lower than the 10% required by other Scottish universities - for recruitment from SIMD20 areas by 2021.

From next year the University will introduce a number of measures that aim to help it surpass this target two years ahead of schedule, including a plan to provide more places for students from widening access backgrounds, including through clearing.  The University will also accept applications from SIMD20 students after the UCAS deadline of 15 January.

There will also be funding to assist applicants and offer-holders with travel costs related to the University’s recruitment activities and events, for example Open Day or Articulation Day.

Furthermore, the University will continue to offer free accommodation for the first year of study for students from SIMD20 areas.

Commenting on the new target, University Principal George Boyne said: “This University was founded on the guiding principle of being open to all, and it is for this reason that we have set this ambitious new target to recruit 10 per cent of our Scottish students from SIMD20 areas, from September 2019.

“Our commitment to widening access to higher education has resulted in a number of initiatives to open up pathways to university for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, however we undoubtedly face unique challenges here in the north-east which I was pleased to discuss with the Minister during today’s visit.

“Despite these challenges, our new target provides a renewed impetus to our widening access activities, which I consider to be a priority area for the University. 

“Along with the introduction of several new measures - including our plan to promote more opportunities for students from SIMD20 backgrounds through clearing - this is a significant step in our journey towards greater inclusion.”

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead, said:

“I welcome the University of Aberdeen’s commitment to recruit more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to this impressive institution.

“The Scottish Government wants every young person in Scotland to have an equal chance of success, no matter their background or circumstance. It is our aim that, by 2030, 20% of students entering university will be from Scotland’s most deprived backgrounds.

“Widening access initiatives, such as the work announced by the University of Aberdeen today, provide the opportunity for young people to fulfil their potential at university.”