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Check out the latest news and blogs from SCAPP members and news from across the sector


Widening Participation: unpacking a portmanteau concept

In her most recent blog, Dr Karen Campbell, Research Fellow in Educational Research and Evaluation at Glasgow Caledonian University, explores the current use of the term ‘Widening Participation’ in the context of implications for policy and practice in the post-pandemic landscape.

Read more about this here

College Connect – transforming the transition programme for online delivery

Earlier this year, Farah McAdam and James Moohan, College Connect Development Officers at Glasgow Caledonian University, delivered one of SCAPP’s Lunch and Learn events about how they transformed their Transition materials for articulating students into online mode.

Here, Farah reflects on their work and how by using Articulate 360 they turned their programme into an accessible, interactive and  virtual offering.

Read Farah’s article here

Building a Widening Participation Practitioners’ Network during a Pandemic

Muriel Alexander, SCAPP Development Coordinator, reflects on her first 12 months or so in her role, what has been achieved so far,  and looks forward to meeting colleagues for a proper coffee and not just a virtual one

Read the article here

Identity Matters

Read this post from Dr Karen Campbell, Research Fellow in Educational Research and Evaluation at Glasgow Caledonian University. This post draws on her recent HERD publication, Higher education learner identity for successful student transitions.

Read Identity Matters here

Cov-19 Chronicles from the margins. Colleagues from the Open University have written two blogs which can be found on Marie Gillespie’s website Cov-10 Chronicles from the Margins. The OU held a virtual roundtable event in January to look at forging partnerships with community organisations to open up learning to those affected by forced migration. The first of the blogs is written by Lida Dancu, who summaries the discussions held at this event. Read Lidia’s summary of the event  here

The second blog is written by Gill Ryan who writes about how mobile learning technologies are being harnessed to support displaced people in their learning. You can read Gill’s blog here.

Widening participation in HE: why it’s important to focus on ‘first generation’ students –  UCL Institute of Education Blog  See this interesting blog here at UCL blog

Capability building at the hub of university transitions

Read this post from Dr Karen Campbell, Research Fellow in Educational Research and Evaluation, Glasgow Caledonian University which argues that university preparedness  is best supported when learners are immersed in the university experience when learners experience studying HE level qualifications within a university environment pre-entry

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

News updates

Update 16 July 2021
Congratulations to John Blicharski and the team at University of Dundee whose Access Summer Schools won the Heist Silver Award as Best UK Widening Participation Initiative 2021 for “Online Innovation to Widen Participation in a Pandemic Year”.
I July 2021

Commissioner for Fair Access, Sir Peter Scott’s report Re-committing to Fair Access: A Plan for Recovery

This is Sir Peter Scott’s fourth annual report

Sir Peter makes a number or recommendations focusing on the pandemic and how it has hit the most disadvantaged learners the most. He makes a number of recommendations including that the Scottish Government’s commitment to fair access should be a priority, and additional funded places should be made available in universities for this current year and for next year. In addition that universities should give high priority to reintroducing outreach activities, and a more flexible and ambitious approach to contextualised admissions as a result of the changes which were made this year to the examinations system.

Of interest specifically to SCAPP is his comments about the Framework for Fair Access and within it the Toolkit and SCAPP, and future funding support options, which you can read on pages 45 and 46.

30th June 2021

The Scottish Funding Council has published a report with recommendations for the future of Scotland’s College and university system.

The Phase 3 report, following on from two earlier reports, sets out the significant strengths of Scotland’s colleges and universities, the challenges they are facing over the coming years, and recommends ways to continue to secure good outcomes for current and future students in terms of fair access, good quality learning environments, and readiness for their next steps in the world; for employers and the changing world of work; and for wider social and economic benefit.

Read the report here Coherence and Sustainability: Review of Tertiary Education and Research

SFC Report on Widening Access 2019-20

This report presents data relating to the Commission on Widening Access targets, and on Scottish-domiciled entrants to higher and further education in Scotland by socio-economic deprivation, gender, ethnicity, disability, care experience and age.

The report highlights amongst many things that 16.4% of all Scottish-domiciled full-time degree entrants were from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland, which means that universities have met the COWA target of 16% by 2021/22 two years ahead of schedule.

28 June 2021

Improving Schools in Scotland – An OECD Perspective

A recent independent report about the Curriculum for Excellence from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), was published on 22 June 2021. As a result of this report the Scottish Government have made a number of important decisions including the replacement of the SQA and review of Education Scotland. You can read the report below


14 June 2021

Access to Humanities (SWAP) Course Perth College

Perth College are offering the opportunity to study towards an Access to Humanities (SWAP) course which can be undertaken remotely.

The main aim is to give more opportunities to adults living in Scotland wanting to access higher education but who live in remote areas where access to a local college is difficult.

This may be of interest to learners that you are supporting or those who may be in touch with you.

See here for further details

7 June 2021

Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland

Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland set up a Joint Articulation Group (JAG) in response to concerns about the impact of the pandemic on the ability of students to successfully articulate in 2021, which were raised in the Covid-19 Learner Journey Ministerial Taskforce. JAG is looking at immediate articulation issues but will then shift focus to taking forward articulation, building on the National Articulation Forum report published in 2020.

We are aware that colleges and universities have gone to great lengths to support all their students in their studies over the course of the pandemic. We know that colleges and universities have been carefully considering how to support new and continuing students and that this will include arrangements for articulating students. JAG has looked at this issue across the sector and wishes to make some points that universities and colleges might find useful. Our aim is to support fair access and widening participation, for which articulation plays an important part. We also have some information on changes to SQA’s arrangements for the assessment of students on HN courses this year, which we hope will assist universities.

Recommendations and further information is available here 

Universities Scotland

Statement for Scottish school leavers and university applicants in 2021

The pandemic has disrupted much of the last year’s school education and has necessitated a second year of alternative arrangements for the assessment of National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers. This has been a very challenging time for pupils in the senior phase.  The disruption and this year’s adaptations to the assessment process have a number of implications for school leavers hoping to go onto university and universities would like to offer some clarity and some reassurance to those pupils and their families and support networks.

The full statement can be found here. 

Understanding who works in WP: survey request

Dr Colin McCaig, Professor of Higher Education Policy, Centre for Development and Research in Education, Sheffield Hallam University , Dr Jon Rainford, Honorary Associate, Access., Open and Cross Curricular Innovation, The Open University and Ruth Squire, Doctoral Researcher, Sheffield Hallam University are undertaking a survey to understand who works in WP.

Understanding who works in Access to higher education work and how they perceive their role is an under-researched area. We want to develop a broader understanding of who works in the field, where they work and what they do – and we need your input to ensure the range of experiences of working in the sector are represented in our current projects.

If all or part of your role is focused on supporting people to access higher education, no matter what job title you have or organisation you work for, you can help us by completing the survey below. You’ll be asked some questions about your current and previous roles, what brought you to working in WP and your day-to-day activities. It should take no more than 15 minutes and your answers are voluntary and anonymised.
Survey Link: Understanding who works in WP 

Please share with contacts and colleagues, in and outside universities.
This research is being carried out by Professor Colin McCaig, Dr Jon Rainford and Ruth Squire. Any questions can be directed to

17 May 2021

Dr Karen Campbell joins College Development Network

Dr Karen Campbell has been appointed Research Associate for the College Development Network’s new Research and Enhancement Centre.

The network, which drives research in Scotland’s colleges to enhance performance and student success, launched the centre to 150 delegates from across the UK last month. The centre will act as an information hub for existing research, propose and commission new research and drive enhancement work arising from it with networks and short-life working groups.

At the launch, Professor Martin Doel, Chair of FE Leadership at University College London, said the centre would create a space to create, curate and harvest further education research.

Education researcher Dr Campbell said: “I am delighted to be involved in such an innovative new sectoral development. There is a dearth of research in the Scottish college sector. The launch of the new Research and Enhancement Centre will go a long way to addressing this omission, ensuring sectoral decision making and enhancement is based on research that is relevant, robust, applicable and useful in the Scottish FE/HE context.”

You can learn more about the launch event here

Brightside National Collaborative Programme for Young Refugees September 2021

Brightside are an online mentoring organisation with over 18 years’ experience and working with over 80 Partners, including Universities, charities, businesses and schools. Following the success of the Collaborative National Prepare for HE programme in 2020, and the programmes currently running working with young carers and 16-18 year old students, Brightside are now hoping to run a programme in Autumn of 2021 to support young refugees aged 16-25 as they navigate unique and complex challenges with their next steps on their educational and career journeys.

The idea behind a Collaborative National programme is that we bring together a number of universities and Higher Education Institutions so that we can pool costs, making the programme more cost-effective per Partner, but also share the expertise, knowledge and experience we all have of working online and working with this group of young people to ensure an impactful and successful programme.

The programme has also been endorsed by Refugee Education UK (formally The Refugee Support Network), who will be providing mentor training, as well as putting together and keeping updated a specialist Resource Toolkit for mentors and mentees so that this programme is tailored to the needs of the young people we’re working with.

You can find out more about this programme by clicking here to see a programme outline and clicking here for a summary of the costs involved.

If you are interested in becoming a Partner in this Collaborative National Programme, running throughout the Autumn and Spring next academic year, then please fill in this expressions of interest form and return it to Nick Wells: who will be in touch to arrange a call to discuss getting involved in further detail and ensure the programme works for you and the students you want to support. Any other questions can also be directed to Nick directly.

Recovery and Education

Scott Duguid, Learning Support Adviser, Edinburgh College is interested in the role of further and higher education in peoples’ recovery from addiction and how colleges and universities can better advocate for the needs of individuals.

He is also interested in raising awareness of recovery within colleges an universities and how we can develop better, more connected structures for adults entering mainstream education (for comparison, as is increasingly the case with care experienced students).

Scott would welcome contact from any professionals with an interest in recovery and education, and particularly interested in hearing from anyone who might be willing to do some awareness training for Edinburgh College support/lecturing staff.

Topics might include:
– College and the recovery pathway
– Learning support for adults in recovery
– Cognitive/learning impacts
– Transition support

If anyone can help Scott, or wants to connect he is available

University Demand at Record High

19 Feb 2021

New figures from the university admissions service, UCAS, show the total number of applicants to Scottish universities has risen by over 12 per cent (an increase of 14,700 applicants), reaching a record high for this point in the application cycle.

Read more information here

Maintaining fair assessment for university students in academic year 2020/21

Scotland’s higher education institutions have offered reassurance to all students that fairness will continue to be a defining feature of assessment processes in 2020/21.

A new statement by all 19 universities reaffirms their commitment to ensuring that student assessment, and the processes that lead to progression and graduation, are underpinned by the fundamental principles of fairness, integrity and reliability as well as those of quality and standards.

Read the full statement on the Universities Scotland website  here.

Sir Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access, has published an interim report on The Impact of Covid-19 on Fair Access to Higher Education

The report focuses on themes of digital poverty, articulation, outreach and access, online learning, student experience, staff, mental health, financial hardship, targets and examinations, grades and contextual admissions and reinforces the need to continue to take effective, and urgent, action to tackle inequalities in access to higher education

Sir Peter Scott’s report can is available on the Scottish Government website 

Updated 3 December 2020

The Sutton Trust are keen to engage with partners who work with S5 pupils for their US programme.

The Sutton Trust US Programme is designed to support students from state schools across the UK in Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland and Year 13 in Northern Ireland to explore US study and access leading universities. It includes two virtual residentials before all students spend a week in the US staying on campus at a leading US university and visiting a variety of other American universities. Please note that the health and safety of our young people and our staff takes top priority. This may mean we need to adjust our plans, and possibly deliver US weeks in a virtual format. If any of your students are accepted onto the programme we will provide further details regarding US weeks.

An optional second year of the programme supports students to apply to US universities alongside their UCAS options. In the past six years, we have helped more than 450 British students get places and funding at top US universities.

The programme is free to take part in. 

The Programme is founded and funded by the Sutton Trust, the UK’s leading social mobility charity, and delivered in partnership with the US-UK Fulbright Commission, who are experts in helping UK students study in the US.

The Trust are accepting applications until 17 January 2021

The Sutton Trust also runs multiple UK-based summer schools that students may be interested in. You can find more information here.

For further information please contact Angel Fletcher at

Member of the Moment

Building a Widening Participation Practitioners’ Network during a Pandemic

Muriel Alexander, SCAPP Development Coordinator, reflects on her first 12 months or so in her role, what has been achieved so far,  and looks forward to meeting colleagues for a proper coffee and not just a virtual one

Networking – remember that? The ease and comfort of meeting new or existing colleagues in trains, in the coffee queue pre or mid-event, at lunch or between breakout sessions, sparking ideas, clarifying or checking details, building – or building on –  connections and friendships.

I took up the reins of SCAPP (Scotland’s Community of Practice for Access and Participation) in January 2020, after its launch in May 2019 as part of  Scotland’s Framework for Fair Access.  After an intensive and fulfilling period of networking, meetings and events attendance in the familiar and traditional sense of these activities, 51 days later I found myself in my spare bedroom (now office) wondering where SCAPP goes from here!

SCAPP’s aim is to support the development and professionalisation of a strong widening access and participation community in Scotland.  Networking and communication is at the heart of what we do, something which has required new ways of thinking, working and surviving during the pandemic.

So how has SCAPP developed and responded since March 2020? All activities, communications and operations have had to be reconfigured to ensure business continuity.  Colleagues without exception have responded creatively, positively and collaboratively to support SCAPP’s progress and development. We will all be familiar with new online platforms and delivery methods, dodgy WIFI connections, mute buttons and for some home schooling, all within, and often in addition to, a day’s work!

Notwithstanding this, membership has grown from 87 in January 2020 to just over 260 at the time of writing incorporating university, college, charities and other public sector organisations.

A key objective of SCAPP has been to develop appropriate opportunities to raise the status of widening participation and access work. To this end a staff mentoring programme has been established – MAPS (Mentoring for Access and Participation Practitioners). 42 professionals are participating, as mentors, mentees and in some cases, both.

Another key development has been in establishing a Professional Standards Framework which will support the professional recognition and accreditation of WP colleagues designed to raise the profile and support continuing professional learning and development of staff working in the field. Work continues throughout 2021 to complete a workable model which we hope to pilot later this year. Watch this space!

Central to the activities many colleagues undertake is the evaluation of WP activities to ensure practitioners are equipped with the right evaluation tools to evidence impact , measure success and enhance the work which has been developed,  by sharing practice and ensuring our techniques are relevant and informed by research. An event in January 2021 brought together members of the widening access and participation network and the research community to explore a collaborative approach to working more closely and many exciting and interesting opportunities and tangible activities were explored  – such as a Directory of Practice, an online forum and Sharing practice events – which could be progressed quickly and we hope to bring these to fruition in the coming months.

There has been a huge appetite for networking and events, perhaps not surprisingly fuelled by the, often, isolating nature of the working environment that we all find ourselves in but also a need to connect, meet, learn and engage in something different but meaningful within the working day.

Seventeen events have taken place since August 2019, fifteen of which have been delivered online since March 2020. We have introduced regular Connect with Coffee, Lunch and Learn and Brunch and Blether events  – plans for Afternoon Tea and Talk too! – as well as topical or relevant workshops covering about the articulation agenda and the work of Student Ambassadors. Events will continue during 2021 recognising their importance in enabling networking and connections to develop.

An articulation network is being developed to support practitioners who have an interest or role in articulation and the broader learner journey within which it exists.  Early discussions have also taken place about coordinating a community of practice for professionals supporting Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in collaboration with City of Sanctuary as a result of interest within the sector.

So what about the future? SCAPP is addressing a gap in basic opportunities to meet (currently online), share and develop ideas and practice, supporting the needs of wider access professionals, and providing  a sense of community and belonging which is masked in the current working environment.

SCAPP’s strength lies in its collegiate and partnership approach, providing a neutral stance within which activities can be developed and implemented. As the scope of widening access and participation grows and diversifies, SCAPP is appealing to a broader widening access and participation professional community.

Beyond the funding which currently supports the activities of the DC role, all of the work undertaken by working groups, events, activities and programme developments is currently supported by invaluable in-kind support, relying on busy but willing practitioners to make activities and developments possible, and to broaden the support network of SCAPP.

But we need to work towards a sustainable model of delivery and support in the future. As all organisations tighten their financial belts within increasingly challenging economic circumstances, that collaborative, in-kind support might be a vital ingredient if we are to continue the work of this important Community of Practice in supporting the ambitions of the Framework for Fair Access.

But first, let’s get networking a la traditional!  Look forward to seeing you in the pre-event coffee queue!