STUDENTS from deprived areas like Dumbarton and the Vale continue to face disadvantages in the higher education system, a new report has revealed.

The paper, titled Access to Postgraduate Study; Representation and Destinations, reveals that during the 2017/2018 academic year, undergraduate students from deprived areas are less likely to progress to postgraduate study.

Meanwhile, the postgraduate population is made up of 12.5 per cent of students from the most deprived areas of Scotland – a decline from the 15.6 per cent that made up the undergraduate population.

At the other end of the scale, 28.2 percent of those entrants from the least deprived areas made up the postgraduate population, almost a third of those enrolled.

In response, Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton MSP, said: “The disparity in progress to postgraduate study between students from deprived areas and more privileged students shows that we continue to waste the talent and chances of too many young local students.

“Cuts in grants have seen poorer students having to borrow more as they struggle to live through their studies – perhaps one reason they graduate with poorer degrees.

“In spite of the progress made on widening access, there is still a huge disparity between the ‘ancients’ and post-92 universities in creating access for poorer students. That is not good enough.

“It is vital that the government reverse cuts to university funding and review the cap on student places which has failed to keep up with demand.”

Richard Lochhead, further and higher education minister, said: “Scotland already has record numbers of full-time, first degree entrants from our most deprived areas, and we are now just 0.1 percentage points away from meeting the Commission on Widening Access interim target of 16 per cent by 2021.

“From academic year 2017/18 we have been making postgraduate study more affordable for students domiciled in Scotland.

“We increased the maximum level of available loan support to £10,000 for any taught postgraduate course at any Scottish HEI up to full masters level, and from this academic year (2019/20) we extended the support package to include research masters.

“We look forward to working with the commissioner and universities to identify what more we can do to support access to postgraduate study.”