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If you have evaluative evidence from an access intervention that you would like to see included within the toolkit, please get in touch.

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Updated 21 July 2020

Pathways Web App to communicate articulation opportunities between Colleges and Universities in Edinburgh and surrounding SE Scotland
A new Web App – – that allows students and school leavers to look up further and higher education pathways in one place has been launched.

The Pathways Web App was developed by the Regional Learner Passport Partnership (RLPP) and supported by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to make pathways that exist across many colleges and universities easier to understand.

The advertising, promotion and understanding of learning options are often complex and difficult for pupils, students and advisers to find and navigate. In recognition of the many institutions and diverse range of courses, the Pathways Web App was established to promote and create efficient and clear routes to Higher Education in and around Edinburgh and the surrounding South-East Scotland area.

The Pathways Web App makes it clear that it is possible to move from college to university with full credit awarded for prior learning and is a distinctive and much admired feature of Scottish post-16 education. Now school leavers and students can look up their college and university options in one single place without contacting numerous institutions.

The Web App was put together in response to The Commission on Widening Access (COWA) outlining that education pathways were a way in which people could access higher education to achieve a degree.

Alistair Sambell, chair of the Regional Learner Passport Partnership said,
“Our colleges and universities came together in this innovative partnership with a shared commitment to improving access to higher education for learners across the region. This web based app was developed with strong input from students themselves, in keeping with our guiding principle of putting students at the heart of our actions.”

Karen Watt, CEO of the Scottish Funding Council said,
“Moving from College to University where you get credit for prior learning is an incredibly important part of the Scottish education system. This Web App will ensure that regardless of your background and regardless of your start in life, you have an opportunity to have a route to higher education and the opportunity to explore the options that are right for you.”

The Regional Learner Passport Partnership

Articulation pathways exist across many colleges and universities, but the advertising, promotion and understanding of the routes is often complex and difficult for pupils, current or potential students and advisers to find and navigate. In recognition of the multi-institutional and diverse nature of learner journeys, the Regional Learner Passport Partnership (RLPP) was established to promote and create efficient and student-orientated routes to Higher Education in and around Edinburgh and the surrounding South-East Scotland area. The Partnership, supported by SFC, consists of a number of institutions based in the wider South East area of Scotland and includes:

Edinburgh Napier University, Queen Margaret University, Heriot Watt University, University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling, The Open University in Scotland, University of St Andrews and SRUC

Edinburgh College, Fife College, West Lothian College, Newbattle Abbey College, Forth Valley College and Borders College

The website can be found here or at

A short video about the App can be found here

A longer video can be found here 




The Third report from Scotland’s Commissioner for Fair Access – Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges Annual Report 2020 – has been published.

You can find the report here. Also available on the Publications and Resources page


Updated 9 June 2020

Scottish Funding Council news

The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science has announced a sustainability plan for further and higher education in Scotland in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The plan identifies key actions to address the immediate issues faced by Scotland’s colleges and universities. They include flexibility in funding; the protection of Scotland’s world-leading university research; and new scholarships for EU and international students.

The plan also contains money for additional student support and hardship resources, and £5 million to help offset the costs of equipment for digital learners in need of extra help. An additional focus of the plan will be on enabling colleges and universities to play a key part of Scotland’s economic recovery.

An article containing more details of the plan and of the Scottish Funding Council’s part in its implementation is now available on the Scottish Funding Council website here

The plan can be found here


Webinars and Online Events


Toolkit Webinars

A series of five pre-recorded webinars are being developed on using the Fair Access Toolkit and carrying out evaluation. These replace planned face-to-face workshops which had been scheduled to take place in April but, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, are being created for online delivery instead. This means that practitioners can access these at a time that suits them best and can be watched in sequence or selected for choice of topic.

Webinars are pre-recorded without an audience and will last between 10 and 20 minutes approximately.  Webinars  will be retained as a resource on the Fair Access website. Each webinar will be released at approximately 2 weekly intervals.

Please accept our apologies for any compromise of sound quality as we work towards facilitating online provision of this resource.

Webinar programme:

1. Using the Toolkit for Fair Access

You can access Webinar 1 here

This webinar introduces viewers to the Scottish Toolkit for Fair Access. You will learn how you can use the Toolkit to inform your widening participation activity and guide associated evaluation.

This webinar will cover:
• Background to and purpose of the Toolkit
• Navigating the Toolkit
• Using the Toolkit to plan your widening participation activity
• Using the Toolkit to inform evaluation
• Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP)

2. Assessing evidence for the Toolkit
In this webinar the team who developed the Toolkit for Fair Access explain how they identified and assessed the evidence included in the Toolkit. Watching the webinar will help you understand more about the standards required for evidence to be included in the Toolkit.

You can access Webinar 2 here

3. Planning your evaluation
This webinar will help you to think about the purpose of your evaluation and plan it in a structured and systematic way, improving the chances of a successful evaluation.


You can access Webinar 3 here 

Here are links for the script for the presentation together with a template for the Logic model which is discussed in this webinar

4. Horses for courses – selecting an appropriate method for your evaluation
In this webinar we talk you through the process of deciding which evaluations methods are most appropriate given your evaluation purpose and practical constraints. We focus on evidencing causality in your evaluation and share our learning on running an RCT.

5. Sharing your findings – writing up and disseminating the results of your evaluation
The final webinar in the series provides tips on how to ensure your evaluation findings are communicated to achieve maximum impact and can be incorporated into the Toolkit in the future.





Publications, Articles and Resources


Report on Widening Access, April 2020, SFC

Commission for Widening Access: A Blueprint for Fairness – Final Report of the Commission for Widening Access, March 2016

Commission for Fair Access Annual Report 2019: building on progress towards fair access

Commissioner for Widening Access: Discussion Paper: Access to Postgraduate Study: Representation and Destinations, January 2020

Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges, Annual Report 2020 – Commission for Fair Access annual report

Resources and Useful Reading

WONKE – Home of the Higher Education debate

The Guardian Education pages

Holyrood Education pages

UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish

Higher Education Policy Institute

The Conversation Independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public

Volunteer Scotland has a daily Radio V podcasts on all matter volunteering and learning.

OFS Briefing Note Needs of Students Without Family Support During Pandemic May 2020


Moving Widening Participation Outreach Online: Challenge or Opportunity – Jon Rainford, University of Bedfordshire

Our Hub Model can Transform prospects for Young People in Care – Lorraine Moore, Manager, Hub for Success, Edinburgh Napier University. This article appeared in The Scotsman on 2 July 2020

Why Widening Participation Matters More than Ever – View form Scottish HE Sector – Laura Cattell, Head of Widening Participation, University of Edinburgh This article, published on FACE website (Forum for Adult and Continuing Education),  summarises how Covid-19 has heightened the value and necessity of widening participation

Minister lambasts English universities for letting down students – article in the Guardian 1 July 2020


A Strange Speech to Widening Participation Practitioners – article by Alex Blower reflects on a speech on social mobility and concludes that the minister failed to read the room – from WONKHE 5 July 2020


Open University resources

Open University Widening Access and Lifelong Learning Journal

Caring Counts is an OU in Scotland course co-created with carers and carers organisations. It’s intended to help carers reflect on their caring role, and the skills and experiences they’ve gained through it that are transferable to other contexts. It’s particularly useful for carers at a transition, who may be considering returning to work or study. It can be studied online or facilitated as a group course (there’s a guide provided) – which many carers organisations around Scotland have done.

Carers scholarships – the OU is now offering scholarships to carers and young adult carers beginning their studies with them. The criteria for this is that you must have a household income of less than £25k per year. In Scotland, the SAAS part-time fee grant covers module costs for anyone with a personal income of less than £25k. That means that Scottish carers won’t benefit from the scholarship in the same way as their counterparts in other parts of the UK so OU in Scotland will not be promoting it. The good news is that they can study with the OU for free anyway, as 70% of OU students are eligible for the part-time fee grant.

Refugees and asylum seekers
Reflecting on Transitions is an OU in Scotland course co-created with refugees, asylum seekers and other new Scots, in partnership with Bridges Programmes in Glasgow. The course can help learners identify the range of skills and abilities you’ve gained from their personal experiences and plan their next steps into work or study.

OpenLearn has developed a collection for Refugee Week called Understanding Refugee Experiences including a section on Resources for refugees

FutureLearn runs regular ESOL courses by the British Council. Understanding IELTS: Reading is available now (free, 3 weeks long). Understanding IELTS: Listening begins on 6 July.

The RefER project identified a range of online resources for refugee learners and those supporting them. You can read the report here or access the interactive document with links to those resources.

If you are using open educational resources with refugees and asylum seekers, you or your learners are invited to share your experiences on the Refugee Learning Stories blog. This is an open space, so anyone is welcome to contribute and posts can be anonymous if you prefer. There are some interesting posts for you to browse – from using Whatsapp as a language learning tool to university scholarships for asylum seekers in Dublin.

The Scottish Refugee Council has produced a short film called I Hear You for Word Refugee Day 2020

Anti-racism resources
Very topical at the moment and of critical importance to educators, many anti-racism resources are being made available for free just now. The Service Design in Scotland Network has compiled an interactive Padlet of resources called Black Lives in Scotland. You can explore links to resources or contribute to the Padlet yourself.

OpenLearn resources

Collection of mental health and wellbeing resources
Family friendly hub
Furloughed workers resources (in partnership with My World of Work)
Taking your teaching online
Open Pathways – an interactive guide for learners beginning their journey on OpenLearn

Articles and Papers

Why Widening Participation Matters more than Ever – View from the Scottish HE Sector written by Laura Cattell, Head of Widening Participation at the University of Edinburgh,  published on FACE website (Forum for Adult and Continuing Education)

Student ambassadors: “role-models”, learning practices and identities’ published by Dr Clare Gartland from the University of Suffolk – paper presented at LEAPS/SCAPP event on 25th June 2020 “Working effectively with Student Ambassadors and Volunteers in Widening Participation Projects

Presentation from webinar Working Effectively with Student Ambassadors and Volunteers in Widening Participation Projects – presentation by Dr Clare Gartland on 25 June 2020

Using the Lens of ‘Possible Selves’ to Explore Access to Higher Education: A New Conceptual Model for Practice, Policy, and Research  Neil Harrison, Department of Education and Childhood, University of the West of England


Information to support Care Experienced and Estranged Students

Student Finance, Research, Campaigns 

Stand Alone summer update

Campaign for financial support for estranged and care-experienced students and graduates without family support

Stand Alone has been working in collaboration with a number of charities to raise awareness of the impact of Covid 19 on higher education students without parental / family support and to lobby governments for additional financial support for these students.

We published a survey at the start of lockdown on the challenges these students were facing due to Covid 19. We have written about the issue in the press, have taken part in Scottish Government consultations and are in discussions with the DfE and Welsh Government.

Our most recent ‘summer hardship’ survey report will be published shortly alongside an open letter from an estranged student.

Applying to SAAS: Financial Support for Estranged Scottish Students

Applicants need to let SAAS know that they are estranged from parents when applying for support.

A student is eligible to be considered for independence on the basis of being estranged if:
• they are not in contact with both their parents and
• there’s been a permanent breakdown in the relationship, and there is no sign of this being resolved in the future

Applicants are sent the Evidence of Estrangement form, and they return the completed form using the ‘Document Upload’ service in their SAAS Account. The form must be endorsed by a professional person who knows the student’s circumstances, such as: teacher / doctor / counsellor / college or university student advisor / lawyer / solicitor / police officer / family mediation worker / social worker / etc.

If the student doesn’t have a professional person to confirm they are estranged then they should still complete the estranged evidence form and explain why this is the case in section B. SAAS will contact them if they need any further information.

SAAS case workers assess all applications from estranged students on a case-by-case basis. If any further information is required when processing an application for estrangement SAAS will contact the student directly.

You can find information about the Student Information Scotland website here

Student Finance England ‘Estrangement Form 20/21’: Advice and best practice

Practitioners feedback since the form’s inception has been very positive as it gives step by step guidance to supporting those students without any suitable evidence and an opportunity to request a SFE caseworker should a further discussion be needed and a future telephone interview.

In the past some staff in institutions have been reluctant to sign the form as they felt they were confirming a certain situation was true.

Staff now no longer need to known the student for any length of time to sign the new form, therefore removing a major barrier to proving estrangement. The new form specifically directs students without evidence to student services as in many cases staff may either know their circumstances and be able to confirm them or alternatively, can suggest sources of evidence that can confirm their situation and would be acceptable. If you are not able to sign the form though, you should send it to SFE with an email explaining why and ask for the student to be referred to a case worker.

It is also important to note that the form is not a compulsory part of the estrangement process and evidence will continue to be accepted as it has been in a variety of formats.

Please bear in mind when speaking to a student about the form to be aware of the potential sensitivity of individual student’s circumstances and the potentially traumatic experiences that have led to a breakdown in the relationship with their parents and often also their wider family. Conversations should be conducted with care and confidentiality and not probe into details of student’s personal experiences and their estrangement.

House keeping: The new Form was released in Jan 2020. Please delete the old version and familiarise yourself with the new version.

Click here for the new form on the SLC webpage

You may also find the SLC Funding Information Team monthly bulletin useful which you can access via this webpage, and where you can also post feedback:

A guide to help estranged students write their personal statement
Stand Alone has worked with UCAS to produce guidance for estranged students on how to write their personal statement. A group of estranged students compiled a set of unique skills and positive personal strengths these students may have developed as a result of their experiences.

Click here for more information

New Stand Alone research report: Family Estrangement and the Covid 19 Crisis

This survey set out to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on estranged family relationships.

This research was conducted by Dr Lucy Blake at Edge Hill University, Dr Becca Bland at Stand Alone, and Dr Sarah Foley and Dr Susan Imrie at the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge.

Click here to read the report

The Stand Alone Pledge

Emerging from lockdown and planning for a restructured delivery of the new academic year provides higher education institutions with a unique opportunity to fully address the different needs of a diverse student body.

So this is also a time to sign the Stand Alone Pledge or use your Pledge to shape the support for estranged students to ensure their needs are recognised and they feel part of their university community.

Click on the Pledge logo to link to the Pledge website