Site navigation

The Tookit

The Toolkit for Fair Access provides short summaries of a range of interventions designed to promote fair access to and successful participation in higher education. For each intervention included, the Toolkit provides an overview of its effectiveness, the cost and the strength of the supporting evidence.

The aim is to help practitioners and funders to select those interventions that are most appropriate given their budget and target audience.

In many cases the evidence for the effectiveness of interventions could be strengthened and improved. The Toolkit also provides signposting to best practice guidelines on evaluation to support the improved evaluation of widening access initiatives across Scotland.


Why is it needed?

In 2014 the First Minister of Scotland set out the ambition that “a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will, by the time he or she leaves school, have the same chance of going to university as a child born in one of our least deprived communities.”

The Commission on Widening Access (CoWA), set up to advise on how this ambition could be achieved, made clear that the approach to widening access to higher education should be evidence based. However, the Commission also recognised that there was little robust evidence of effectiveness of interventions.

The Fair Access Framework, comprising SCAPP and the Toolkit, is a first step towards addressing this.

Who developed the Tookit?

The Toolkit was commissioned by the Scottish Funding Council on behalf of the Commissioner for Fair Access, Professor Peter Scott, and developed by CFE Research with academic partners Dr Claire Crawford and Dr Colin McCaig. The team have experience in evaluating widening access initiatives, along with expertise in developing evaluation frameworks and accessible toolkits.

How is the Tookit Governed?

The initial and continued development of the toolkit and SCAPP has been taken forward by the Framework Governance Group chaired by the Commissioner for Fair Access with representation from across the college, university and access sectors.

Framework Governance Group members

Professor Sir Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access (Chair)

Peter is Professor of Higher Education studies at University College London. Before that he was Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University and Pro Vice-Chancellor for external affairs at the University of Leeds. He was a member of the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England where he chaired its widening participation strategic committee. His earlier career was spent in journalism and he was Editor of the Times Higher Education.

He was knighted in 2007 for services to education and is the recipient of a number of honorary degrees. He has published widely on education, including widening access issues.

Kenny Anderson, Director of SWAPWest

Kenny was inspired by direct entry college students to GCU, while lecturing in the Engineering Department. He developed a number of guidance and induction initiatives with GCU engineers. He then began working with SWAP in 2004, initially implementing guidance projects for college and community based learners. He has been Director of SWAPWest since 2008. Kenny is passionate about providing opportunities for adult returners to progress to progress to higher education, working in partnership to achieve social justice and good guidance.

See SWAPWest webpages for more information

Professor Martha Caddell, Director of Learning and Teaching Academy and Professor of Higher Education Policy and Pedagogy, Heriot Watt University

Martha’s career has been shaped by her interest in exploring pathways into education and the policies and practice that support such journeys. This is evident in her early work on the policy and politics of primary schooling in Nepal through to more recent work on developing flexible routes into and through higher education in the UK context. She has held various academic and management posts at The Open University and at Edinburgh Napier University. In addition, she has led a number of sector-wide initiatives, including the national Third Sector Internships Scotland programme.

Martha is currently Deputy Chair of the QAA Enhancement Theme on Evidence for Enhancement: Improving the Student Experience. She is Innovative Practice Editor for the Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning.

Martha’s current research and scholarship focuses on academic identities and careers, discourses of excellence and success in HE, supporting student transitions; and developing and supporting flexible curriculum.

Dr Neil Croll, Head of Widening Participation, University of Glasgow

Neil began working in Widening Participation in 2001, as a Tutor in secondary schools on the University of Glasgow (UofG) Top-Up Programme. He has been Head of Widening Participation at UofG since 2009, overseeing and growing the University’s broad range of provision and partnership work in this area, while developing a research and evidence base to underpin a combined approach using effective outreach and contextualised admissions to widen access to UofG and the sector. Highlights include the development of the Reach West Programme in 2010, the Medical School Glasgow Access Programme in 2017 and the UofG HNC Articulation Programme in 2018.

n 2016, Neil co-authored the SFC-funded Impact for Access report, University of Glasgow and West of Scotland Local Authority partners: how to engage with MD40 pupils in higher progression schools, which is being used by SFC and Scottish Government as part of the evidence base for the future direction of widening access in Scotland. He was a project board member of the Blueprint for Fairness in the Glasgow Region research project, completed in 2018.

Neil is currently Vice-Chair of the Scottish Wider Access Programme (West) and sits on several Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council and sectoral groups and committees, involved in formulating national widening access strategy.

Dr Laurence Lasselle, Senior Lecturer, University of St Andrews

Laurence joined the School of Management in 2013. She started her academic career at St Andrews as May Wong Smith Research Fellow in October 1997 and held various positions, including Pro Dean (Advising) in the Faculties of Arts and Divinities. She gained her phD in 1996 from Aix-Marseille Universite France and was awarded a six month Jean Monnet Research Fellowship tenable at the European University Institute, Italy in 2003.

Her recent current research focuses on widening participation in Scottish HE with a particular focus on access to HE for Scottish rural and remote communities.

See Laurence’s St Andrews webpage for more information

Aileen Ponton, Chief Executive Officer, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework

Aileen joined the SCQF Partnership as its first Chief Executive in July 2007.

The Partnership is the body responsible for maintaining the National Framework for Scotland – the SCQF. Prior to joining the SCQF Partnership Aileen was Head of Policy Development, Scotland with the Sector Skills Development Agency for 3 years. This was the organisation which set up the network of Sector Skills Councils.

Before joining SSDA in 2004 Aileen had worked with the Scottish Qualifications Authority and its predecessor SCOTVEC for 15 years in a range of roles around qualifications development and quality assurance.

In addition she previously served for six years as a member of the Hong Kong Council for the Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications and has acted as an international expert for a number of countries developing Qualifications Frameworks. She has recently been appointed to the Quality Evaluation Panel for HE in Macau.

Dr Stephanie McKendry, Head of Access, Equality and Inclusion, University of Strathclyde

Stephanie has over 15 years experience in various teaching, learning and research roles in higher education. Since 2014, she has led the Widening Access Team at the University of Strathclyde, with responsiblity for increasing opportunities and removing barriers to study and success for those from widening access backgrounds.

Her research interests span widening participation; retention and the student experience; under-representation and the intersection between access and equality; identity in higher education; and the experience of young adult carers and students from looked after/care backgrounds. Most recently, she led an award winning research project exploring the experiences of trans and gender diverse applicants, students and staff in Scotland’s colleges and universities.

Stephanie has supported the Commissioner for Fair Access as Implementation Advisor/ Researcher through a part-time secondment to the Scottish Government since December 2016 with particular focus on the Framework for Fair Access. She sits on the Executive of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education, is the Editor of their annual publication and an Editor of the Journal for Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning.

Dr Bernadette Sanderson, Director, FOCUS West

Bernadette is Director of the Schools for Higher Education Programme in the west of Scotland and has worked at a senior level in widening access to HE since 2003, primarily as Director of the West of Scotland Wider Access Forum.

She has published and spoken widely in this field and has also held various external roles in widening access to HE, such as Visiting Fellow at the NCSEHE in Australia and External Examiner with the University of Newcastle in the UK.

Bernadette has also served as Executive Member, Trustee and former Treasurer of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education in the UK.

See the FOCUS West website for more details of their work.

Muriel Alexander, SCAPP Development Coordinator

Muriel has worked across a variety of organisations including education, industry, enterprise and careers over a thirty year period, and has undertaken roles at University of West of Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Strathclyde, University of Glasgow and, more recently, at Forth Valley College, encompassing project management and development, marketing, business engagement, strategic planning and management roles. She brings experience, knowledge and skills in lifelong learning, admissions, student recruitment, articulation and student administration with widening participation being at the heart of all of these roles and responsibilities.

Anna Wallace, Senior Policy Adviser, Scottish Funding Council

Anna has been with the Scottish Funding Council for over twenty years, and during that time she has worked in a variety of roles across the organisation including corporate affairs, student support and widening access, which has always been her main focus. She is the lead SFC officer for the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP), the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP) and the two schools programmes – Schools for Higher Education Programme (SHEP) and Access to High Demand Professions (AHDP). She also leads on the SFC’s veterans work and facilitates SFC’s Armed Forces and Veterans Community Group.

From December 2019 to June 2020, she was on secondment with the National Articulation Forum, where she held a number of focus groups with college and university students around Scotland on articulation and helped produce the Forum’s final report. Anna herself, was an articulating student and used an HNC to move onto a degree course with the Open University in Scotland whilst she was working at the SFC.