A university has pledged to double the number of full-time Scottish degree students it recruits from Scotland’s most deprived areas by next year.
The University of Aberdeen said it will increase the proportion of such students to 10% as part of its commitment to improve access to higher education.
In recent years the University has recruited only between 4 and 5% of students from Scottish Index of
Multiple Deprivation 20% most deprived areas (SIMD20) which it said was largely due to the very low proportion of postcode areas classified as such in the north-east, an important recruitment area for the institution.
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, such as through clearing.
University principal George Boyne announced the move during a visit by Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead on Tuesday.
Professor 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% 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.”
The university said it will accept applications from SIMD20 students after the UCAS deadline of 15 January.
There will also be funding to help applicants and offer-holders with travel costs related to the university’s recruitment activities and events such as an open day.
Mr 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.”