Principal Mapstone defends new admissions policy

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St Andrews University’s principal has argued it is the Scottish Government’s cap on the number of Scottish domiciled students that is responsible for middle-class pupils missing out on places at the University rather than lowering entry requirements for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Professor Mapstone defended publishing for the first time the intention to use two sets of exam grades for entry to each course, depending on the background of the applicant.

She is quoted in the Daily Telegraph (6th March) as saying that the two-tier system “does not in itself disadvantage anyone” following concern that widening access will displace middle class pupils with better grades. Instead she argued that the “co-existence of a capped numbers policy” is responsible”.

Professor Mapstone added: “In St Andrews, contextual admission is one of a range of measures, alongside extensive outreach, summer schools and academic gateway programmes, which has meant that 49% of our current entrant class of Scottish students has a widening participation background”. However, it has been noted that, at 27%, St Andrews admits the lowest proportion of Scottish domiciled students in Scotland. Other figures for Scottish Universities include Edinburgh 33%, Aberdeen 55%, Glasgow 57%, Stirling 67% and Dundee 68%.

QV reported (February 22nd) that St Andrews was second only to Oxford in the UK in terms of its admissions, 40%, from private schools. Privately educated pupils make up 7% of the school population in the UK, 4% in Scotland.

On its revised Entry Requirements webpage, the University states:

The University of St Andrews offers a variety of flexible entry options in order to ensure our doors remain open to all students, regardless of background or personal circumstances.

Although entry to St Andrews is competitive, we recognise a range of different qualifications and consider all aspects of your application, including context, your personal statement and references. Grades alone will not guarantee you admission, and actual offers may be higher or lower than the listed minimum grades required by each programme.

We have clarified our entry requirements for applicants living in the UK and applying for 2020 entry. Applicants will note different levels of entry requirements for SQA Highers, GCE A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate. More information about our entry requirements can be found in Academic entry explained and UK-based applicants can use our indicator to see which set of entry requirements they need to look at. All non-UK based applicants should look at our standard academic entry requirements.

The University also offers alternative entry routes for applicants who come from areas where we receive limited applications and who are unable to obtain the required grades, or for those who are returning to education after an extended period of time.

Editors Comment: While the University’s contextualised admissions policy is to be welcomed, it is hard to follow Principal Mapstone’s logic in blaming the Scottish Governments cap on Scottish domiciled student numbers for the predicted fall in the admission of privately educated pupils. In fact, with a self-imposed cap of 10,000 in total student numbers, the only way the proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds can increase is at the expense of pupils from more affluent backgrounds. 

St Andrews Q.V.

St Andrews QV (Qui Vive) is an independent not-for-profit, non-political platform for news and debates about issues that are important to the Town. It exists to hold decision makers and public services to account while its editorial policy is to accommodate all shades of opinion from all parts of the community, prioritising evidence-based arguments. St Andrews QV is a member of the Independent Community News Network and is committed to the Community Journalism Charter

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