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Publications and Reports

The Future of Learning and Teaching – Defining and Delivering an Effective and Inclusive digital/blended offering (added March 2024)

This report is a result of a joint ‘Tertiary Enhancement Topic’ project, instigated by the SFC and carried out by QAA Scotland, Education Scotland, CDN and sparqs.

Focussing on first hand student experience, the report looks at what students want from blended learning and what approaches lead to the best outcomes. It considers designing and delivering an effective and inclusive digital/blended learning offering in Scotland’s colleges and universities.

Read more on the Sparqs Website and the report on the SFC webpage.


Support for estranged students in UK Higher Education: An analysis of the Stand Alone Pledge (Added January 2024)
Dr. Rachel Spacey, Rebecca Sanderson and Dr. Becca Bland

In 2022 Stand Alone commissioned the Lincoln Academy of Learning and Teaching to undertake an analysis of the impact of the Stand Alone Pledge on the development of support for estranged students in higher education. The findings show that ‘the Pledge has helped raise awareness of estranged students and the unique challenges university students without family support encounter, across both the HE and FE sectors‘ and that ‘the range of support pledged to estranged students in the Pledge letters is remarkable’.
The paper has been published in the e-journal IMPact v.6 issue 2 (2023):


The Sutton Trust – 25 Years of University Access (added November 2023)

A major study of higher education trends over the past 25 years reveals persistent access gaps for disadvantaged students, particularly at the most selective universities.

The research, using a unique dataset compiled by dataHE for the Sutton Trust, shows that despite huge expansion of higher education, the progress that has been made in closing access gaps between state and independent school pupils has not translated into significantly more equal representation of young people from less advantaged homes.

The report shows that while we have more young people accessing higher education than ever, an escalating education ‘arms race’ has meant that narrowing the gaps in access to the most selective universities has been stubbornly slow.

Read more, on the Sutton Trust website.


Leading an Innovative College-Wide Project
An Evaluation of West Lothian College’s ‘Change, Sustain, Attain’ Development Process

CDN have published a new report  written by Dr Karen Campbell, Research Associate, CDN and in collaboration with colleagues at West Lothian College. It examines their development of a college-wide project to produce their new ‘Change, Sustain, Attain’ course using the Inner Development Goals as a basis.

The report traces how the IDGs have informed the way in which the West Lothian college team worked together to develop the course and is a study of leadership and collaboration led by Jackie Galbraith and Sarah-Jane Linton (She/Her) with support from CDN’s own Valerie Jackman.

Read the article here  Leading an Innovative College-Wide Project


Sutton Trust – Social Mobility: The Next Generation – Lost Potential at age 16 (added July 2023)

This report looks at the progress made during secondary school of young people from different backgrounds who were in the top third of attainers at the end of primary school.

High attaining pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have the best chance of becoming socially mobile, and Social Mobility: The Next Generation will explore, through a series of reports, what barriers there are to that group fulfilling their potential, and what are the circumstances and policies associated with educational and labour market success.

Read the report here.


Hayward Review: It’s Our Future Report of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessments (added June 2023)

Professor Louise Hayward’s report following her Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment (IRQA) recommends reform of the current senior school phase, including the creation of a new Scottish Diploma of Achievement (SDA).

Key recommendations of the Hayward report include:

  • adopting the SDA (Scottish Diploma of Achievement) as a graduation certificate for all senior phase educational settings
  • the end of exams in S4 and a wider range of assessment methods used in Highers and Advanced Highers
  • a digital profile for all learners which allows them to record personal achievements, identify and plan future learning

Read the report here.


Fit for the Future: developing a post-school learning system to fuel economic transformation (added June 2023)

The report of James Withers’ Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape outlines recommendations to ensure the public sector can meet the level of economic transformation expected in the years ahead.

  • Key recommendations made by Withers include:
    the creation of a new single funding and delivery body, bringing together functions from Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and, possibly, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)
  • giving the enterprise agencies a clear remit for supporting businesses, with workforce planning as an embedded and integrated part of business development and planning
    ensuring there is a clear remit for the new qualifications body – the successor to the SQA – in overseeing development and accreditation of all publicly funded post-school qualifications
    moving responsibility for national skills planning to the Scottish Government
  • reform of SDS to create a new body with a singular focus on careers advice and education

Read the report here


TASO report – addressing the ethnicity degree awarding gap (added June 2023)

TASO has launched a new report exploring approaches to addressing the ethnicity degree awarding gap (EDAG) in higher education (HE).

• The analysis of Access and Participation Plans (APPs) identified various approaches, with curricula development and learning analytics the most prevalent.
• While the sector is committed to tackling the EDAG, confidence in effectively addressing the gap is lacking.
• One-of-a-kind individuals play a vital role in driving progress, raising concerns about potential stagnation if they were to change roles.
• Capacity and capability for evaluation vary significantly among HE providers.

Read the report here.


TASO report – Evaluating multi-intervention outreach and mentoring programmes (Added May 2023)

TASO has launched a new report exploring the evidence on the impact of multi-intervention outreach and mentoring programmes and how to evaluate these programmes so we can advance the evidence base and improve practice across the sector.

Findings from the project have been used to develop a Mapping Outcomes and Activities Tool (MOAT), which was developed in collaboration with the project partners.

Read the report here.


Does providing informal care in young adulthood impact educational attainment and employment in the UK? (Added May 2023)

Most research on the effects of caring has focused on older spouses or working-age carers providing care for older people, but providing care in early adulthood may have longer-term consequences, given the importance of this life stage for educational and employment transitions. This study aims to investigate the impact of informal care in early adulthood on educational attainment and employment in the UK and to test whether these associations differ by gender or socio-economic circumstances.

Read the research, here.


Higher Education is supposed to be free for all – Asylum Seekers’ experience of accessing further and higher education in Scotland (added May 2023)

The Poverty Alliance have conducted research with community researchers about the barriers faced by asylum seekers accessing further and higher education. They have produced clear recommendations for positive change based on equality, dignity and respect.

Read the report on the Poverty Alliance website.


Higher education in the UK: Systems, policy approaches, and challenges (added April 2023)

A report launched by the House of Commons Library, with Professor Graeme Atherton, Director of NEON and Parliamentary Research Fellow at the Library, provides a comprehensive overview of the differences in higher education systems across the UK. Examining a range of issues including participation, research, teaching and learning, internationalisation as well as widening access the report shows that the four nations are taking increasingly divergent paths in higher education. England with its regulatory approach to higher education led by the Office for Students is taking a particularly distinctive path.

This report includes a wealth of data relevant to access and participation. This includes comparisons of the progress each nation is making in terms of access to higher education by those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and the different approaches taken across the UK to extending access to higher education.

Click here to read the report.


New Book – Access, Lifelong Learning and Education for All (Added April 2023)

A New Book inspired by Professor Jim Gallacher – Access, Lifelong Learning and Education for All, has just been published in the Palgrave Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning (PSAELL) book series, and is edited by Gareth Parry, Peter Scott and CR&DALL Director, Mike Osborne.

This collection of essays was inspired by the work of Professor Jim Gallacher, who for some four decades, until his death in 2020, was a driving force in the widening of access to higher education in Scotland, and in fostering the development of research in lifelong learning in the UK and beyond. Each of the editors and many of the contributors to this collection had close working relations with Jim, and considered him a close friend, and hope that he would have been pleased with the book.

Read more here.


Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning Journal, Volume 24, Number 3 (Open University) (added April 2023)

Please see here for a direct link to the February edition of the journal. This edition includes research and articles from a number of our Scottish and UK-wide colleagues including:
An evaluation of the University of Glasgow’s Top Up pre-entry programme and the impact of the Open Learning Champions Project by the Open University in Scotland.


TASO – Online teaching and learning – lessons from the pandemic (March 2023)

This report focuses on the impact of online teaching and learning on student outcomes before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, including impacts on students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

You can read the report here.


TASO – What works to reduce equality gaps for disabled students (February 2023)
The report – which reviewed over 400 articles and included a series of consultations with experts – found limited causal evidence on what works to address these inequalities.

Read more about the report, and download it here.


Pathways from Poverty, Leading with empathy and vision:  An insight into West Lothian College (February 2023)

The third report from CDN Research and Enhancement centre, produced in partnership with West Lothian College. This report provides a detailed case study to how the college takes a trauma-informed approach, and how this has influenced college ethos and wider partnership initiatives.
You can read the report here.

You can also see the full Pathways from Poverty report series, here.


Cost of Living and University students – Sutton Trust (January 2023)

This polling, conducted by Savanta for the Sutton Trust, examines how the ongoing cost of living crisis is impacting students, particularly those from working class families.

The findings reveal clear signs that students are under considerable financial pressure, with those from working class backgrounds suffering the heaviest impacts.

Read the report here.


Cost of Living and Education – Sutton Trust (December 2022)

This polling, conducted by Teacher Tapp for the Sutton Trust, examines the issues that teachers are seeing their pupils face linked to living costs.

The findings reveal clear signs that the cost of living is increasingly affecting young people’s education in a range of areas.

Read the report here.


Reach Magazine (January 2023)

The January 2023 issue of the magazine for Scotland’s College Sector is now online. You can read it here.

It includes articles about inspirational practice and innovation, virtual reality in care, data skills for all, embedding health and wellbeing and more!


Surviving Estrangement

A new report by Buttle UK into young people aged between 16-20 years of age co-produced by young people and published in December 2022

The report estimates that 150,000 young people (2.7% of all HE students in the UK) are estranged from parents in the UK today.

It found that a lack of recognition of estrangement and overstretched support services means estranged young people (EYP) are not getting the support they need.

Read the report on the Buttle UK website

Watch the feature on Channel 4 News


TASO – Guidance for measuring impact of raising attainment (added December 2022)

With raising attainment high on the agenda, TASO have provided guidance on measuring whether outreach activities for attainment are having the desired impact.

Read full details here


Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland Joint report on Graduate Apprenticeships, (December 2022)

The Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland have published their latest joint annual progress report for Graduate Apprenticeships.

Key findings include a rise in the number of employers taking on Graduate Apprentices and an increase in the number of enrolments from under-25s. The figures also show that more than 60 per cent of all enrolments were in a framework related to Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM).

As we move into the new year, SDS and SFC will continue to work together and with partners to deliver Graduate Apprenticeships across Scotland – as we aim to maximise uptake of up to 1,378 Graduate Apprenticeship opportunities for 2022-23.

More information is available on the SFC website at


Next Steps: Care Experienced Students and progression to HE (November 2022)

UCAS, in partnership with the Unite Foundation, have published a report exploring the experience and aspirations of care-experienced students in their progression to HE across the UK.
This includes the positive impact of using minimum entry requirements for care experienced students in Scotland.

You can read the UCAS report here, and Universities Scotland response to the findings, here.


Actions required to maintain momentum towards 2030 access targets in Scotland (November 2022)

Dr Kirsty Conlon, Head of Learning and Teaching and Widening Access Policy at Universities Scotland, shares her thoughts on what the sector may expect to see as priorities when the soon to be announced Commissioner for Fair Access takes up position.

You can read the article here.


Research on the experiences of estranged students in Scotland (November 2022)

In March 2022, the Scottish Government commissioned ScotCen Social Research to undertake research on the experiences of estranged students in Further (FE) and Higher Education (HE) in Scotland.

The research findings and associated literature review were published by the Scottish Government on the 1 November 2022, and can be accessed at the following links:

Research report – Estranged students in Further (FE) and Higher Education (HE) – experiences: research – (

Literature review –  Estranged students in Further (FE) and Higher Education (HE) – experiences: literature review – (


Publication of experimental statistics from the secondary analysis of the HESA data on estranged students in Scotland, 2020/21 – These data tables provide initial insights on the numbers of estranged students at university in Scotland, their demographic characteristics, the institutions and courses of study, as well as on their term-time accommodation.  Please note these are experimental statistics, which come with caveats and limitations. The Scottish Government hopes that by publishing this analysis that this will facilitate dialogue by allowing users and stakeholders to see, consider and provide feedback on these data. This feedback will be valuable in helping analysts better understand the HESA data and will help drive forward future work in this area.

If you would like to access this secondary data analysis, please see Estranged students: university data 2020-21 – (



Higher Education’s Equity crisis threatens sector

Graeme Atherton – University World News (Nov 2022)

This article by Graeme Atherton outlines challenges facing the sector, for World Higher Education Day 2022.

Read the report, here.


HESA – area based deprivation (Nov 2022)

Using the 2011 Census data, HESA have released a paper detailed a new, UK-wide area-based measure of deprivation.

This may be of interest to those in education, charities, researchers, or organisations specialising in poverty, deprivation and social mobility.

Read the report, here.


Reaching Care-Experienced learners earlier – The Learning Explorers Pilot (Nov 2022)

An evaluation of the Learning Explorers pilot has been shared. This project worked with P7 students and student ambassadors in partnership with the Hub for Success and local educational institutions.

Read the report, here.


Estranged students in further and higher education (Nov 2022)

In March 2022 the Scottish Government commissioned ScotCen to undertake research on the experiences of estranged students in Scotland.
This research included a rapid literature review, interviews and focus groups.

Read the report, here.


COSMO study (Nov 2022)

The first reports of the COVID Social Mobility and Opportunities study have been published. This collaborative research explores the short, medium and long-term impacts of the pandemic on educational inequality, wellbeing and social mobility.

Read the reports, here.


The Sounding Out Project (Oct 2022)

Evaluation has been undertaken for the Sounding Out Project, a Youth Music Initiative with care experienced young people, delivered by RCS and supported by Live Life Aberdeenshire and Creative Scotland. Read the report on the Fair Access Website.


Accessing Robert Gordon University: The experiences of students from disadvantaged backgrounds

Professor Stephen Vertigans, Head of School of Applied Social Studies at RGU,and Sarah Minty, University of Edinburgh, recently undertook research with undergraduate students from MD20 areas and those with care experience/ estranged backgrounds at RGU to explore their routes to the university and the barriers and enablers they encountered on the way.

You can read their research findings here


In Conversation with ….

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland have launched four new podcasts – artist-led collaborative projects created with students on the Contemporary Performance Practice and Transitions programmes.

The Access Podcast – FACE (Forum for Access and Continuing Education)

FACE have launched an  Access Podcast recently and the first two are listed below.

The first is about tracking students via a centralised database, called HEAT (Higher Education Access Tracker).

The second looks at Skills and the Post-16 education bill for England and Wales

The Access Podcast • A podcast on Anchor


CDN have published a report Pathways from Poverty – Colleges for Communities which was prepared by Dr Paula Christie and Dr Erica O’Neill for CDN’s Research and Enhancement Centre.

Building on CDN’s Pathways from Poverty in March 2022, which published evidence from a two-year national sector inquiry into the role of colleges in addressing the poverty crisis in Scotland, this most recent report aims to promote and encourage the work of colleges in tackling poverty with case studies which highlight best practice in the college sector.

The report highlights five key themes as potential areas for the development of future practice in colleges:

• Creating safe spaces
• Working in partnership
• Direct action on poverty
• Supporting Transitions
• Sustainability

Find out more and access the report here


Higher Education Provision in Scotland’s Colleges – A Future shaped by new levels of cross-institutional collaboration?

A  research report entitled Higher Education Provision in Scotland’s Colleges: A future shaped by new levels of cross-institutional collaboration?  written by CDN Research Associate Patrick O’Donnell, Perth College, UHI has been published which looks at the development of higher education delivery in the colleges in the UK and in Scotland specifically.

In a detailed survey of the college landscape and its historical development, Patrick identifies the main drivers of higher education provision and how they are continuing to evolve. This is a valuable report for anyone interested in how our colleges have developed their unique provision and what will influence the next stage of their development.

You can read the report here



Access to HE for Scottish rural and remote communities

Laurence Lasselle, Senior Lecturer, School of Management at University of St Andrews undertook research on access to HE for remote and rural communities following the inquiry into attainment and achievement of school children experiencing poverty of the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament in 2018. This Committee recommended investigating how communities could be affected by the use of the SIMD1 and Free-School Meals as indicators of deprivation in school funding allocation.

Laurence has published two papers  Levelling the playing field between rural schools and urban schools in a HE context: A Scottish case study (Lasselle and Johnson, April 2021)

and its follow up Depicting Rural Deprivation in a Higher Education Context – A Scottish Case Study
(Lasselle, 2021)

Both papers document how the use of the SIMD1 and FSM indicators could impact access to HE for remote and rural communities.

Please contact Laurence Lasselle if you would like to know more about this research.


Refugees Welcome Guidance for Universities on Providing Asylum Seekers and Refugees with Access to Higher Education 2021 – Universities Scotland publication.

Higher education institutions are well placed to be able to provide wide-ranging support to people who are fleeing violence and persecution. They can and are supporting people and communities in different circumstances: in their home countries, in refugee camps, and when they are settled in the UK.

Universities have updated their 2016 report . This is a collaborative effort between the Scottish Refugee Council and Scottish universities to provide guidance for the sector to ensure there is an understanding of entitlements, and that any displaced person living in Scotland that wants access to higher education is not discouraged by the administrative procedure required to gain entry into higher education.

You can access this publication below

Refugees-Welcome-2021-final.pdf (



Reducing the Poverty Related Attainment Gap – Evidence Review of Mentoring and Tutoring 

Report undertaken by the Poverty Alliance on behalf of the Robertson Trust

New analysis, undertaken by the Poverty Alliance on behalf of the Robertson Trust, examines evidence on the effectiveness of mentoring and tutoring for children and young people living in poverty and provides an overview of the current policy and practice landscape in Scotland.

Th research highlights the success of mentoring as an effective way to improve self confidence and raise aspirations amongst young people affected by poverty.

You can read the report here


The Robertson Trust funded a Mentoring Project – Time4 Me – aimed at  young people (aged 15-26) considered at highest risk of not achieving successful and sustained educational outcomes. The groups targeted for support were
• Care experienced young people
• Young carers/Young adult carers
• Young people from regeneration areas (SIMD20)

An evaluation of this project has taken place and makes interesting reading. You can find this report here


Building Belonging in the post-pandemic landscape

Dr Karen Campbell (Glasgow Caledonian University) explores ways of embedding a sense of belonging among students as they make transitions into and through higher education. Drawing on research and highlighting specific aspects of Glasgow Caledonian University’s approach, the paper discusses key challenges and opportunities for building belonging in the post-pandemic student experience and offers practical examples and activities that could be introduced in other institutions.

This article can be found on the  QAA Membership Resources site

You can read this article here



Co Creating the Learner Journey: School College Partnerships and Effective Skills Pathways
College Development Network Research and Enhancement Centre

This report highlights the value and importance of school college partnerships. The report shows that between 2016-17 and 2019-20, School-College Partnership enrolments rose from 53,000 to almost 73,000. The new research reveals that if the upward trend continues, once we have recovered from the pandemic, it is anticipated that 12% of all school pupils in Scotland will engage in study with a college.
The research, which contains 11 case studies, goes on to identify ten key characteristics of successful School-College Partnerships. It also makes nine recommendations, including the need for an annual report to allow meaningful and consistent comparison across school/college provision.

Report authors: Gordon Hunt, CDN Associate (Research & Enhancement Centre), Dr Karen Campbell, CDN Research Associate, Colin Lynagh, CDN Research Associate Grant Ritchie, Associate Director, CD

You can read the report here


MD20 students with Care Experienced & Estranged Backgrounds

l Studies at RGU,and Sarah Minty, University of Edinburgh, recently undertook research with undergraduate students from MD20 areas and those with care experience/ estranged backgrounds at RGU to explore their routes to the university and the barriers and enablers they encountered on the way.

You can read their research findings here


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



Students who participate in summer schools more likely to attend university

Students who attend summer schools are more likely to receive better grades and progress to higher education, according to a new report from TASO and the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) Service.

Download the read the article here


University Admissions: The international Picture. Post qualification admissions systems around the world
Professor Graeme Atherton

See the full report here
To discuss the report and its contents please contact Professor Graeme Atherton on


The Outlook for Outreach –  shows investment in widening access to higher education to fall if Uni-Connect programme not renewed

Research released in June by the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) examining the Access and Participation Plans (APPs) of 171 Higher Education Providers shows that from 2022-23 the total invested in activities to support those from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter HE will fall unless there is continued funding provided for the national Uni-Connect programme.

The report entitled ‘The outlook for outreach’, also finds that investment in activities for learners post 16 is almost double that for those younger than 16, despite the wealth of evidence that shows young people form their future educational ambitions at the pre 16 stage. This difference in investment between those pre and post 16 is also set to grow over the 2020-21 to 2024-25 period covered by the plans.
As the author of the report Neil Raven states:

‘Whilst the report confirms the real commitment of HE providers to widening access, it also highlights the essential and complementary role that Uni Connect plays and the need to secure the programme’s long-term future.

You can read the report The Outlook for Outreach here


Building Belonging in the post-pandemic landscape

Dr Karen Campbell (Glasgow Caledonian University) explores ways of embedding a sense of belonging among students as they make transitions into and through higher education. Drawing on research and highlighting specific aspects of Glasgow Caledonian University’s approach, the paper discusses key challenges and opportunities for building belonging in the post-pandemic student experience and offers practical examples and activities that could be introduced in other institutions.

This article can be found on the  QAA Membership Resources site

You can read this article here


Students who attend summer schools are more likely to receive better grades and progress to higher education, according to a new report from TASO and the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) Service.

Download the read the article here 


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