Suzanne Marshall, Advisor at CDN outlines key recommendations of the final report of the Commission for Widening Access.

The final report of the Commission for Widening Access was published on Monday 14 March. The Commission was set up by the Scottish Government to advise on the steps necessary to achieve their ambition that a child born today in one of Scotland’s most deprived communities will, by the time they leave school have the same chance of entering university as a child born in our of the least deprived communities.

A Blueprint for Faireness

The report identifies 34 recommendations around a number of key themes:-

  • the creation of a Commissioner for Fair Access and the publication of a Framework for Fair Access
  • Identifying and sharing good practice should focus on what works and what provides a coherent and comprehensive offer to learners
  • more flexible, joined up transitions between sectors
  • bridging programmes to be expanded nationally
  • all institutions need to engage strongly with articulation, building upon best practice models already in place  

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    GCU College Connect

  • separate entry requirements for the most disadvantaged learners to university should be set by creating access thresholds and an independent review should be undertaken of non-academic elements of the admissions process to ensure they are nor unfairly penalising some students
  • Admissions and university ranking should not be penalised as as result
  • Learners should be supported through early intervention, the delivery of academically based programmes by schools and universities and a more co-ordinated, tailored offer of information, advice and guidance
  • access to key subjects which enables access to higher education should be developed between local authorities, colleges and universities
  • Student finance is a key area where clear, accurate information needs to be provided to learners and their families. Research should also be commissioned on how how student finance impacts on the participation of disadvantaged learners in higher education
  • Care experienced learners, who meet the access threshold, should be entitled to an offer of a place at university. In addition students with a care experience should be given a non-repayable bursary and a more flexible package of student support
  • The Access and Retention Fund should be reviewed and the Outcome Agreement process should indicate how core funding is being used to support access
  • Existing regulatory frameworks should be enhanced to drive forward progress in embedding fair access
  • Better use of data to support fair access by tracking learners and sharing data should be undertaken by the Scottish Government , including bodies such as local authorities, schools, UCAS and SAAS
  • A set of measures should be identified which includes SIMD, but also takes into account an individual’s income circumstances and their school environment
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