Lower proportion of students from deprived backgrounds go to university in Scotland than in England

By Bill Heaney

Scottish students from deprived backgrounds are far less likely to get into university than their equivalents south of the border, new statistics have revealed.

Analysis by the Scottish Conservatives of UCAS’ daily clearing data – released in the wake of exam results in Scotland and England – shows that 26 per cent of 18-year-olds in England from a deprived background got offered a place at university.

However, that figure dropped to just 16 per cent for 18-year-old Scottish students from a deprived background.

While the number of students from deprived backgrounds in England entering university has grown by eight per cent, the corresponding increase in Scotland is lower, at five per cent.

Shadow education secretary Liam Kerr says the widening gap between the poorest Scottish and English students is a “badge of shame” for SNP ministers who claim that education is their top priority.

He added that the SNP must urgently re-think their cap on the number of places offered to Scottish students, which leads to our universities turning away numerous homegrown youngsters every year, including those from more deprived backgrounds. 

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liam Kerr MSP, left, said: “These figures are a badge of shame for an SNP government in power for 16 years and which claims education as its number one priority.

“It is shocking to see that fewer students in Scotland from deprived backgrounds are entering university compared with their counterparts in England.

“Yet again, students’ opportunities to further their education appear to rest on a postcode lottery.

“The SNP’s arbitrary yet stringent cap on the number of places offered to Scottish students each year means our universities are forced to turn away talented Scottish students.

“As these statistics show, the people who are paying the biggest price of that policy decision are those from the poorest backgrounds. As the architects of this situation, the Scottish Government must now explain precisely why that is.

“We saw last week that the attainment gap is widening across Scotland’s education system, leading to these shameful statistics.

“Scottish Conservatives demand that SNP ministers analyse the factors that are hindering those from more deprived areas going to university and listen to our longstanding calls to lift the cap on the numbers of Scottish students getting into our universities.

“As it stands, things are manifestly unfair for aspiring Scottish students – and that’s something we would change urgently.” 

SOURCE: UCAS Daily Clearing Analysis, 24 August 2023 https://www.ucas.com/data-and-analysis/undergraduate-statistics-and-reports/statistical-releases-daily-clearing-analysis-2023

IMD Quintile England Accepted applicants England  18-year-old Population estimate Scotland Accepted applicants Scotland 18-year-old Population estimate England Entry rate Scotland Entry rate Scotland/England Attainment Gap
Most Deprived (1) 38210 146120 1870 11700 26% 16% -10%
Deprived (2) 40340 128010 2160 10600 32% 20% -11%
Middle (3) 42620 120650 2700 10710 35% 25% -10%
Affluent (4) 48280 119940 4070 11780 40% 35% -6%
Very Affluent (5) 60720 128620 5520 12250 47% 45% -2%
SOURCE: UCAS Daily Clearing Analysis 24/8/23



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