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Commissioner for Fair Access

John McKendrick

John was appointed Scotland’s second Commissioner for Fair Access in January 2023, succeeding Professor Sir Peter Scott. John is also Professor of Social Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University and Co-Director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit.

Appointing a Commissioner was one the recommendations of the Commission for Widening Access.

The Commissioner is independent of the Scottish Government. The main responsibility is to write an Annual Report to the Government on progress towards meeting targets for fair access, recommended by the Commission and agreed by Ministers.

The aim is that by 2030 one-fifth of entrants to higher education should come from the 20-per-cent most deprived communities in Scotland. The Commissioner is also responsible for overseeing the work of the Scottish Framework for Fair Access. The Commissioner’s role acts as a focus for efforts by colleges and universities to promote fair access, working closely with the Government, the Scottish Funding Council, Universities Scotland, Colleges Scotland, NUS Scotland, University and College Union and other stakeholders.

Commissioner for Fair Access website

Read more about the Commissioner for Fair Access on the Scottish Government website here, including about the role and responsibilities.

The Commissioner has also developed a standalone website about his role and his work including publications ranging from Annual Reports, Discussion Papers, Blogs and News.

You can read the further Publications and Reports related to the Commissioner for Fair Access on the SCAPP Publications and Reports Page.

John's reflections on Widening Access and the Role of Commissioner

The idea that education provides opportunity for all to fully realise their potential has been, is, and should always be, central to its purpose in Scotland. Widening participation to higher education is the pinnacle of that goal.

Progress has been made toward meeting the ambitious 2030 target to widen participation, and universities, colleges and schools should be commended for meeting the targets ahead of schedule.

However, the world in which we live has changed. The Covid pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis have intensified the problems that present for many, but particularly for those already facing most disadvantage. Therefore, we now need to upscale our efforts to widen participation in Higher Education. This is essential if Scotland is to prosper as a high-skill economy, and to do so as an inclusive society.

It is a great honour to be appointed Commissioner for Fair Access. I relish the opportunity of working with those committed to tackling inequalities in participation.

Previous Commissioner - Sir Peter Scott

Sir Professor Peter Scott was appointed Scotland’s first Commissioner for Fair Access in December 2016.

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.