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MSP says students will miss out on uni places

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.Shetland MSP Tavish Scott. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has spoken out in frustration after it was revealed that isles students will not be offered clearing places at Edinburgh University.

Shetland people will miss out on unused places on the university’s courses because Edinburgh is only awarding them to students living in a postcode in the country’s most deprived areas, or SIMD 20 areas.

The isles does not feature in this list, but Scott has written to Edinburgh University principal Professor Peter Mathieson to state that there are still hundreds of children living in poverty in the isles.

Clearing is used by universities to fill up any places they have left on their courses, and it is usually open to students who do not have a conditional or unconditional offer.

“In 2016, despite figures showing that Shetland had the lowest level of child poverty across local authorities in Scotland, there were still more than 400 children living in poverty and here, like in other rural areas, young people facing a high cost of living do not always have easy access to many of the opportunities available to those on mainland Scotland,” Scott wrote.

“There is no one simple and faultless measure of deprivation but it is stating the obvious to say that a prospective student’s personal circumstances cannot be ascertained solely by their postcode.

“Therefore, I would urge you to reconsider this flawed policy. I encourage the university to continue taking steps to increase the diversity of its student body but I hope that going forward the number of Scottish students from the most deprived backgrounds will increase through greater outreach and with more contextual offers to disadvantaged students, rather than through a last minute push through clearing.”

University of Edinburgh professor of education policy Lindsay Paterson has previously highlighted figures that suggested 65 per cent of young people from low income households do not actually live in the SIMD 20 postcodes.

A spokesperson for the university said in response to Scott’s comments: “We are fully committed to widening participation and welcome students from all backgrounds from across Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world. The 2018-19 cycle is not yet complete but we are very pleased to see continuing progress in the diversity of our new entrants.

“Clearing for Care Experienced and SIMD 20 Scottish applicants is only one of the mechanisms we use to support widening participation. Each mechanism addresses a specific barrier to higher education; for example, our Scotland and University of Edinburgh Scholarships provide generous financial support based on household income levels.

“Our entry in clearing recognises that some applicants need the confidence of knowing they meet our contextualised admissions entry requirement before making an application.”

The Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities also provide halls accommodation support for SIMD 20 students.

Scott also sent his letter to education secretary John Swinney and the commissioner for fair access Sir Peter Scott.