UNIVERSITIES MUST PRIORITISE RETENTION AND ACHIEVEMENT

SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, has highlighted the need for universities to focus on retention and achievement as well access when it comes to supporting students from disadvantaged or non-traditional backgrounds.

Students from these background are less likely to stay until second year, more likely to obtain a general degree rather than honours, and less likely to get a first or a 2:1.

Ruth, who sits on Holyrood’s Education & Skills Committee, used the opportunity of a Ministeral Statement on Widening Access to Higher Education, to ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to encourage universities to attach higher priority to retention and achievement in the context of widening access.

Responding, Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville, referred to the Scottish Funding Council’s Widening Access and Retention Fund, which provided £14.7 million in 2017/18 to support universities with the highest intake of access students.

The Minister also outlined how the Scottish Government is working with the Scottish Funding Council to intensify the ‘outcomes agreement process’ that universities must engage in.  In particular, universities are being encouraged to set more ambitious and challenging targets and to ensure that they are considering retention and attainment as well as initial access to university.

Commenting, Ruth said:

“Whatever barriers people face before they get to university don’t simply disappear the second they get a place – so widening access and retention go hand in hand.

“With students from disadvantaged or non-traditional background less likely to stay until second year, more likely to obtain a general degree rather than honours, and less likely to get a first or a 2:1, it’s clear that universities need to attach higher priority to retention and achievement in the context of widening access.

“I was pleased to hear that the Scottish Government is working with the Scottish Funding Council to encourage universities to attach greater priority to retention and achievement and look forward to monitoring progress in this area as a member of Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee.”