Professor Peter Scott, an educationalist from University College London, has been appointed Commissioner for Fair Access by the Scottish Government.
The appointment was announced in December by Professor Scott and Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Minister for Further and Higher Education and Science, during a visit to the University of Glasgow.
According to the final report of the Commission on Widening Access, the role should “provide leadership, a voice for our most disadvantaged learners and a challenge – to all parts of the education system and Government – to do more and to push harder”.
Principal of the University of Glasgow and prior member of the Commission on Widening Access, Professor Anton Muscatelli said that he was “delighted to welcome the education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville to our campus for the formal announcement that Professor Peter Scott is to be the new Commissioner for Fair Access. It is a highly significant appointment and we will do all that we can to support Professor Scott in the coming months and years.”
The Commission has set out 34 recommendations, with the aim that students from the 20% most deprived areas (MD20) will represent 20% of entrants to Scottish universities by 2030. Within the University of Glasgow, 13.8% of entrants in 2014-2015 were MD20 students, an increase from the 9.4% figure of 2010-2011.
Professor Muscatelli said: “At the University of Glasgow we strive to attract the very best and brightest of students, regardless of background or economic circumstance. To this end we run multiple widening access programmes and put great emphasis on both engaging with schools and talking to pupils about why university, and particularly why the University of Glasgow, should be an option for them.”
Whilst statistical data shows that the number of 18 year-old entrants from the 20% most deprived areas has been the highest ever this year, Somerville stated that the government “[remains] committed to making further and faster progress on fairer access to higher education for all.”
Professor Scott said that the position was “a great honour and a challenge”. He added: “The greatest challenge facing all Higher Education systems in the world is how to remove barriers to fair access, and reduce the glaring inequalities in participation between haves and have-nots. These inequalities undermine our efforts to build a high-skill economy and, more fundamentally, deny individuals the opportunities that should be available to all citizens in a democracy.
“I look forward very much to working with universities, colleges and schools as well as the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government to address these challenges.”
The Commission on Widening Access recommends that the newly appointed Commissioner for Fair Access should produce a Scottish Framework for Fair Access. The publication should “identify the most impactful forms of access activity at each stage of the learner journey, from early learning through to higher education and provide best practice guidelines on its delivery and evaluation.” The report is expected to be published by 2018.