The Scottish Parliament’s new Education and Skills Committee met with University of Stirling staff and students this week to discover the innovative approaches taken to create a culture where students’ ability, not background, is valued.
In a demonstration of best practice in widening access to education, the Committee saw first-hand examples of how the University has developed strong partnerships across the local community to open doors to education for individuals who are the first in their family to attend university.
Stirling has almost doubled the proportion of applicants from Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas in two years, with almost 35 per cent of students coming from the 40 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland. The University’s retention rates for students from a wide range of backgrounds are among the best in the country.
Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “Widening access to education and providing young people with the opportunity to succeed academically, regardless of their background, has been a commitment of this University since our formation almost 50 years ago.
“We’re delighted to host this session on behalf of the sector and to work with the Scottish Government and other leading education providers, to continue to lead the way in expanding routes to education.”
Johann Lamont MSP, Deputy Convener of the Education and Skills Committee, said: “An important part of the work of our Committee is meeting people and hearing first hand their experiences. It was a pleasure to meet staff and students from the University, Forth Valley College, schools and the Open University.
“We were particularly pleased to hear about how the University is taking forward programmes to widen access to higher education. I know that the whole Committee will be extremely interested at what was said and the lessons that can be learned.”
Committee members were shown a recent dance programme developed with local schools, a theatre group and the armed forces, as an example of how to engage with school pupils in a new way.
Staff also talked through their leading partnership with Forth Valley College – an integrated undergraduate degree programme which allows students to make the transition from college to university study.
As part of a session focussed on different careers and education opportunities, students from local schools had the opportunity to meet the MSPs and question the Committee.
The Committee ended the visit with a discussion on widening access, partnerships and engagement with staff and students from Stirling, the Open University and Forth Valley College.