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25 July 2019, 10:25
Scottish universities have pledged to accept all applicants who have been in care if they meet minimum entry requirements.
Potential students who have spent any time in care - regardless of how short - will be guaranteed an offer of an undergraduate place at all of Scotland's 18 universities if they achieve the entry qualifications under the new initiative to significantly increase the number of care-experienced people going onto higher education.
Competition for university places means that many would-be students are not given offers to study even if applicants would meet standard entry requirements.
However, the pledge agreed by all of Scotland's higher education institutions and announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will guarantee offers for care-experienced people, starting for those applying to start in 2020.
Ms Sturgeon said: "I warmly welcome this commitment to guarantee a place at university for care-experienced students who meet the new entry requirements.
"Education is by far the most effective means we have of improving the life chances of our young people. I am firmly committed to widening access to higher education and ensuring that all learners, regardless of their background, have an equal chance of entering university.
"It is important that every young person has access to the learning that will provide them with the skills and qualifications they need to meet their aspirations and succeed in life."
Currently in Scotland, just 4% of school-leavers who have been in care go directly into higher education, compared to 41% of all those leaving school.
Educational attainment also differs widely, with 12% of looked-after leavers achieving at least one Higher qualification compared to 62% of all school leavers.
Professor Sally Mapstone, principal of the University of St Andrews, said: "This is a decisive and, I hope, catalytic step jointly taken by Scotland's universities. It gives due recognition to the substantial achievement of people with experience of care who are successful in getting the grades for university having overcome very challenging circumstances at a young age.
"We hope it will enable more people with care experience to feel confident applying to university, knowing that their application is encouraged and will be supported.
"It is important that all of Scotland's universities have made this guarantee together. That should provide the greatest possible clarity and visibility of this change to people with care experience wherever they live in Scotland and wherever they want to study.
"We're not aware that any other university sector guarantee offers to care-experienced learners in this way and we hope it contributes to the Independent Care Review's ambition of making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up."
Professor Pamela Gillies, principal of Glasgow Caledonian University added: "Today's announcement demonstrates that universities across Scotland recognise the importance of those who have had an experience of care and the huge potential they have.
"It was a pleasure to welcome the First Minister to Glasgow Caledonian University to formally launch our pledge to care experienced people who are considering applying to university."