Increasing access to higher education for disadvantaged and minority student groups could have a positive impact on Scotland’s economy, the principal of University of Glasgow has claimed.
Speaking to The Herald, Principal Anton Muscatelli said: “People sometimes see social justice as something which is not complementary with the other work of universities, but that is absolutely not the case.”
He continued: “All too often you hear of tensions between social justice and economic growth, but I do not believe that is the case because you are tapping into new talent and that will boost productivity and economic prosperity.”
According to economic impact reports, both the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow contribute significantly to Scotland’s economy.
An economic impact study carried out by Biggar Economics in 2014 showed that the University of Edinburgh contributes £3.3bn of output to UK’s economy as a whole, while the ‘Inspiring Economic Impact’ in 2015 showed that the University of Glasgow also contributes more than £1.5bn of output to the Scottish economy.
Kathleen Hood, head of the widening participation (WP) team at the University of Edinburgh said that the university has the goal of widening participation at the heart of its agenda.
Hood told The Student: “students from disadvantaged backgrounds have a greater will to succeed and are more likely to gain an Edinburgh Award which aids their employability”.
She also added that having students from diverse backgrounds is beneficial to the whole community of students and staff.
Hood noted that WP students’ tracking shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds perform equally well in their degree, and that there is no difference in the likelihood of withdrawal from the university community.
As part of its WP initiative, the University of Edinburgh was one of the first in the UK to introduce the use of contextual data in undergraduate admissions in 2004. According to a briefing from the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office, the move led to a gradual increase in the diversity of the socio-economic backgrounds from which University of Edinburgh students hail.
Pathways to Professions, Reach Scotland, and Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS) are all sector leading WP outreach projects that University of Edinburgh undertakes to facilitate the aims of “outreach, admissions and retention”.
“This year over 400 students entered the University via one collaborative outreach project, LEAPS,” Hood told The Student.
According to the Scottish Funding Council, in 2014 the proportion of pupils entering university from the most deprived areas of Scotland had increased since the previous year by 1.7 per cent.
Image credit: Michael D Beckwith