Scottish Framework for Fair Access
“I WANT US TO DETERMINE NOW 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.” Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, 26 November 2014
In 2015 the Scottish Government set up a Commission on Widening Access to advise on the steps necessary to achieve the First Minister’s ambition.
The Commission, Chaired by Dame Ruth Silver, published its final report in March 2016. The report contained 34 recommendations. One of the key recommendations was for the appointment of an independent Commissioner for Fair Access to provided impartial policy advice to the Scottish Government and other organisations. A Commissioner was felt critical to driving progress in the coming years by providing the leadership and system wide approach necessary to advance fair access in Scotland.
Sir Professor Peter Scott was appointed Scotland’s first Commissioner for Fair Access in December 2016.
An annual report is published annually which provides an update on progress made on the recommendations made in the ‘Blueprint for Fairness’.
Recommendation 2 of the Commission on Widening Access’ final report stipulated that by 2018, the Commissioner for Fair Access, working with experts, should publish a Scottish Framework for Fair Access. This authoritative, evidence based framework should identify the most impactful forms of access activity at each stage of the learner journey, from early learning through to higher education and provide best practice guidelines on its delivery and evaluation.
The recommendation was in response to the lack of robust evidence on the effectiveness of access programmes. The Framework should serve several distinct purposes. It should:
- Build evaluation capacity within the sector, identifying, for example, the minimum standards of monitoring and evaluation, based on sound research methodology, that should be embedded in all major access programmes.
- Harness and disseminate current research and new evidence flowing from more rigorous evaluation, to define the most effective interventions.
- Articulate and share practitioner knowledge and best practice across the sector to inform interventions.
The Scottish Framework for Fair Access was launched in May 2019, developed to help access practitioners plan and evaluate new ways of helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds access higher education. It has been designed for use by schools, colleges, universities and the third sector, and provides evidence and advice and highlights best practice by identifying activities that are making the most impact. There are two elements to the Framework:
- Framework for Fair Access toolkit website which provides evidence on activities universities and others can undertake to support access into and through higher education.
- Establishment of Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP) – a forum to share and develop best practice in access support across Scotland.
The Commissioner’s first report – Laying the Foundations for Fair Access – was published in December 2017.
The Commissioner’s second report Building on Progress Towards Fair Access – was published in June 2019
The Commissioner’s third report Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges – was published in June 2020
The Commissioner’s fourth report Re-committing to Fair Access: A Plan for Recovery -was published in June 2021
The Impact of Covid-19 on Fair Access to Higher Education – December 2020