Just 8% of Scottish-based entrants at the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews hailed from the 20% most-deprived areas in 2015-16, Scottish Funding Council (SFC) statistics revealed.
Students from less-affluent backgrounds were also less likely to enter small specialist institutions such as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), making up just 11% of their intake.
Colleges fared best with the number of entrants from poorer backgrounds, with 23% coming from the most deprived areas.
The Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access wants students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds to represent 20% of entrants to higher education by 2030.
Higher education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “I am encouraged to see more entrants from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland accessing higher education, although these figures show a variation between institutions still persists.
“Scotland is gifted with a wide range of world-class universities for students to choose from and we need to make sure that all of our higher education institutions are accessible.
“I am in no doubt that through our continued focus on widening access to HE and our work with our higher education institutions, we will continue to see improvements going forward, ensuring that all of our young people get an equal chance to get a world-class education.”
She highlighted figures showing a record number of HE students gained qualifications from Scottish institutions during the year, up 17% since 2006-07 to 97,565.
Entrants to colleges made up 37% of the total undergraduate students starting in higher education, the highest proportion in the last 10 years.
Overall, there were 285,450 students in higher education in Scotland, up 1.5% from the previous year.
Photo credit Ross G. Strachan