Heriot-Watt statue

Scotland’s 18 higher education institutions, including Heriot-Watt, have today (Thursday 25 July) set out a new commitment that care experienced applicants who meet minimum entry requirements will be guaranteed an offer of an undergraduate place.

The sector-wide move will be in place for the next admissions cycle, starting this autumn for people looking to start university in autumn 2020, and is aimed at driving a significant increase in the number of care experienced people going to university.

The guarantee was formally announced at an event at Glasgow Caledonian University with support from the Rt Hon First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP.

The guaranteed offer is significant because undergraduate degree places are in high demand and competition for places means that universities aren’t typically able to offer places to all applicants, even if and when they meet standard entry requirements.

The average offer rate for applications to study at university from Scottish domiciled applicants is between 50-55% meaning that, on average, only half of applications are likely to result in an offer. Universities’ decision to guarantee an offer to care experienced students who meet minimum entry requirements is informed by their belief in the importance of recognising the context in which care experienced applicants have achieved the entry qualifications needed for university.

Deputy Principal Professor Gillian Hogg said: “We welcome this pledge at Heriot-Watt University that gives recognition to the importance of those people who have had an experience of care and the huge potential they have in challenging circumstances.

“We hope this will encourage and enable the confidence in these people to apply to our University and know they are supported.”

The guarantee is based on a move by universities earlier this year to set new minimum entry requirements which now apply to applications from care experienced people and people living in the most deprived 20 per cent of areas across Scotland, known as SIMD20.

The guaranteed offer, based on minimum entry requirements, is a constructive step to recognise the often very challenging circumstances in which people with care experience achieve their qualifications and the causal link that is known to exist between lived experience of care and educational attainment. There is a significant gap in the educational attainment of people with experience of care which means that 12% of “looked after” school-leavers have achieved at least one Higher or equivalent qualification compared to 62% of all school leavers. At the moment, only 4% of looked after school leavers go directly into higher education, compared to 41% of all school leavers. In the face of this substantial inequality, we feel it is only right to recognise the achievement of people with experience of care who succeed in reaching minimum entry requirements.

Universities have taken this step collectively as part of their commitment to widen access to under-represented groups. 335 care experienced people started university in Scotland in 2016/17, which is 0.5% of all entrants to university. In contrast, 2% of all children in Scotland are “looked after” or are on the child protection register.