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“Secondly, while there is some limited progress in Scotland, it’s not as good as in other parts of the UK, and that partly reflects the fact there is a much lower base of bursary support than the rest of the UK.” These are both matters for the SNP to address “urgently,” she said.

A Scottish Government spokesman, though, said some of the report’s findings were “based on misconceptions that do not accurately reflect the position” in the country.

, he said: “The report suggests the overall participation rate for HE is lower in Scotland than in England.

However, it fails to take account of the significantly different context in Scotland whereby a significant proportion of HE takes place in colleges.

“The report also notes the supply of university places in Scotland has not kept pace with rising demand, with detrimental consequences for less advantaged students.

The growing tendency of students from privileged backgrounds to occupy the lion’s share of places in Scottish ancient universities is also noted.” The SNP has long-supported the continuation of free tuition fees with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon quoted for having said in October last rear: “For as long as I am First Minister, there will be no tuition fees in Scotland.” Her predecessor, Alex Salmond, previously described free university tuition as the policy of which he was most proud.

And, in 2013/14, 55 per cent of Scots entered HE by the age of 30, with 20.9 per cent starting at a further education (FE) college and 34.1 per cent going straight to university after school.

In England, however, 46.6 per cent entered HE, with just 6 per cent starting at FE colleges.

A sad loss to Scotland's industrial landscape...... Hollywood crooner who hung about with Bob Hope (see separate entry) and slid down golf clubs.“When participation in college is factored in, the Scottish HE participation rate is significantly higher than in England.” Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, described how Scotland is facing “a shocking access gap,” adding that it is “vital” the Government appoints a “strong” independent commissioner immediately.The report has also recommends the Scottish Government ensure additional places are available to meet rising demand, and that widening participation initiatives need to be “planned carefully” to avoid duplication, with “rigorous” evaluation needed to run alongside implementation.In England the same figure is 2.4, while in Wales and Northern Ireland, poorer students are three times more likely to do so.Overall, says the report, Scottish universities’ efforts to widen access for students from poorer backgrounds have achieved “only partial success,” adding: “It is not evident from the data that divergence in fee policy has given Scotland any specific advantage.” The report has also found that virtually all the improvements in getting disadvantaged Scottish students places in HE over the last decade (90 per cent) has been provided by colleges, and not universities.

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