Report shows Scotland by far the worst in UK at getting poorest pupils to university

18 Aug 2015

Scotland lags significantly behind the rest of the UK when it comes to sending youngsters from the poorest backgrounds to university, new figures have revealed.

Fresh data provided by UCAS has shown that just 9.7 per cent of those from the most disadvantaged areas have been accepted to university so far this summer.

That compares to 17 per cent in England, 13.9 per cent in Northern Ireland and 15.5 per cent in Wales, meaning Scotland is by far the worst performing part of the UK.

This is despite pledges by the SNP to close the attainment gap and ensure more pupils from the poorest backgrounds make it to university.

The UCAS figures break down 18-year-old successful applicants from across the UK into five categories in relation to background, with quintile one being those from the poorest areas, ranging to quintile five from the wealthiest.

They show that in Scotland less than 10 per cent of the most deprived get accepted to university, compared to more than treble that number from the richest parts.

It is the latest in a series of education figures showing just how badly the SNP is performing with Scotland’s education system.

Earlier this year it emerged literacy standards were falling in schools, a year after pupils were also found to be struggling with numeracy.

Scotland has tumbled down global league tables, and the gap in attainment shows no signs of closing.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said:

“Education is the key to improving your chances in life.

“Yet we see from these UCAS figures that youngsters from poorer backgrounds are much less likely to get into university than their better off peers.

“The issue is much worse in Scotland than in any other part of the UK.

“This lands squarely at the SNPs door, as this Scottish Government has presided over falling school standards, a growing attainment gap and enormous cuts to college courses which can act as another route to university.

“Quite simply, they are failing the children who need higher education opportunities the most.

“We need urgent action to close the attainment gap.

“Already this year we have seen figures which show this is running all the way through our education system, and having a devastating impact on the career prospects on those who we should be helping.”

Notes to editors:
To see the latest UCAS figures on the backgrounds of pupils across the UK, visit:
The tables show the following percentage of 18-year-olds who successfully won a place at university, and the backgrounds they are from, as of Monday, August 17, 2015:
Quintile one (most deprived): 17 per cent
Quintile two: 23.5 per cent
Quintile three: 28.4 per cent
Quintile four: 34.3 per cent
Quintile five (least deprived): 43 per cent
Quintile one (most deprived): 9.7 per cent
Quintile two: 14 per cent
Quintile three: 18.4 per cent
Quintile four: 23.2 per cent
Quintile five (least deprived): 34.9 per cent
For more on falling literacy and numeracy rates, visit: