Union bids to improve access

August 16, 2002

Scotland should jettison postcodes as a means of determining whether students come from disadvantaged areas, the Association of University Teachers Scotland has said.

Instead, it has come up with an alternative scheme to boost social inclusion by asking all higher education applicants if their parents have a higher education qualification, and what their parents' social class was when the student was aged 16.

The AUTS proposal for these questions to be put routinely for official records comes in its submission to the Scottish Executive's review of higher education. It believes that offering institutions more money for entrants from particular postcode areas may simply increase middle-class access.

Tony Axon, AUTS research officer, said: "The present use of a postcode proxy measure of underrepresented areas is a poor substitute for individual-level data and we have suggested a better way forward."

The AUTS believes that the "postcode premium" that supports non-traditional entrants should rise from 5 per cent to 10 per cent, matching English rates. This would cost an extra £5 million a year in 2003-04 and should come from new government funding, not at the expense of core funding for teaching, it says.

Scotland has already axed tuition fees and reintroduced bursaries for poor students, but the AUTS says there is still "unfinished business" in ensuring equitable support, particularly for part-time students.

This has been echoed by the National Union of Students Scotland. It wants to see sub-degree higher education qualifications funded on a stand-alone basis, with part-time courses attracting pro-rata means-tested support.

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