University of the Highlands and Islands welcomes Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges Annual Report

The University of the Highland and Islands has welcomed the Commissioner for Fair Access’s Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges Annual Report 2020.

The report highlights the significant progress made towards meeting the Scottish Government’s targets for fair access to universities and colleges, with 16 per cent of new entrants to higher education from the 20 per cent most deprived communities in Scotland by 2021 having been achieved ahead of schedule.  

Despite the commendable progress made on contextualised admissions to achieve wider access, the commissioner's report points to the need to develop a more systemic approach to assure flexible pathways for all learners.

Vice-Principal Tertiary Education, Lydia Rohmer, comments:

"The University of the Highlands and Islands was created to provide seamless progression for learners in the Highlands and Islands region, providing multiple start and end points across further, higher and work-based education. The university has used contextual admissions for many years to ensure the widest possible access for learners within our region and beyond. This model affords learners maximum recognition of prior learning. We have a very high percentage of learners moving  from HNC/D or other qualifications into degree programmes with advanced standing, helping them to make effective learner journeys to reach their career aim without duplicating any stage of their education, or to meet their need to up or re-skill whilst in work."

The Commissioner's report also highlights the risks which COVID-19 poses to fair access, including the forced move for colleges and universities to digital delivery. Lydia Rohmer added:

"The University of the Highlands and Islands  has a distinctive blended delivery model, combining connected active virtual learning with personalised local support and on-campus activities, helping learners access tertiary learning across remote and rural areas within the region, as well as learners further afield, to connect in active collaborative learning in real time. Our model provides our learners with continued access to high quality tertiary learning at a time of disruption due to the current pandemic."