Edinburgh University criticised over clearing by postcode policy

Tavish Scott, MSP has expressed his concern
Tavish Scott, MSP has expressed his concern
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Flagship Scottish Government plans to get deprived youngsters into university have come under fire after it emerged student hopefuls from across all of Shetland have been frozen out from “clearing” spots at Edinburgh University.

There are now fears that vast swathes of Scots youngsters from poorer backgrounds are being missed because of the “flawed” system which uses entire postcode areas to define who lives in a deprived area.

It emerged last week that Edinburgh University will use this year’s clearing process to award places to those from deprived areas. About 1,700 Scots got a university place through the clearing system last year which matches applicants to courses that have yet to be filled.

Shetland was excluded by Edinburgh because it contains none of the poorest 20 postcodes in Scotland which get preferential treatment as part of Scottish Government directives to open up access to university.

But Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said hundreds of youngsters on the islands are in poverty and postcodes are too “blunt” a measure to define deprivation because most will have a mix of affluent and poorer pockets.

“This is a crude mechanism to target those most disadvantaged young people,” he said in a letter to Edinburgh University principal Professor Gordon Mathieson.

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: “We are fully committed to widening participation and welcome students from all backgrounds from across Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world. The 2018-19 cycle is not yet complete but we are very pleased to see continuing progress in the diversity of our new entrants.”