Universities: Student Numbers High But Warnings Over Staff Inequalities

In the latest statistics Scottish Universities have recorded the number of Scottish domiciled students studying at Scotland’s universities increasing from 180,170 in 2020-21 to 183,025 in 2021-22.

There was also an increase in the number of students from the poorest communities in Scotland entering university.

In 2016 Sir Professor Scott was appointed Commissioner for Fair Access to produce a framework which would assist the delivery of Scotland’s ambitions to improve the educational opportunities for all. He is independent of the Scottish Government but provides policy advice across the whole educational system. (Maintaining the Momentum Towards Fair Access: annual report 2022)

In Scotland Tuition Fees are free, although opposition politicians in Scotland have tried to change this and make students pay, the Scottish Government has remained firm in its commitment to free tuition. Students, of course, have other expenses to meet: issues over housing , cost of food, etc as everyone on low incomes has to deal with in this current economic crisis.

A record number of students enrolled at Scottish HEIs in 2021-22: an increase from last year of 6.5% (+18,355) to 301,230 and a 30.9% increase since 2006-07.

  1. Scottish domiciled              183,025        (+1.6%,   +2,855 since 2020-21)
  2. rUK domiciled                    35,730          (+3.5%,   +1,210 since 2020-21)
  3. Non-EU domiciled              65,300          (+37.1%, +17,670 since 2020-21)
  4. EU domiciled                     17,140          (-16.6%,  -3,410 since 2020-21)

Students coming to Scotland from the EU plummeted in numbers. Commenting on that figure Higher and Further Education Minister in the Scottish Government Jamie Hepburn said:

“The sharp drop in EU students coming to Scotland’s university is bitterly disappointing – an inevitable consequence of the UK Government’s hugely damaging Brexit.”

And he continued:

“The Scottish Government has invested record amounts in student support over recent years, and we will keep working with universities to ensure this funding continues to pay dividends.”

UK domiciled full-time HE undergraduate student enrolments by participation characteristics Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 SCOTLAND

UK domiciled full-time HE undergraduate student enrolments by participation characteristics Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 Scotland

UK domiciled full-time HE undergraduate student enrolments by participation characteristics Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 UK

UK domiciled full-time HE undergraduate student enrolments by participation characteristics Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 UK

Universities across the whole of the UK are, however, facing a research funding crisis, as the sector was severely impacted by the UK leaving the EU.

The Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2021/22 show that “postgraduate research courses reached the lowest number of first year student enrolments since 2012/13, with a decrease of 7% compared to the previous academic year”.

But also, “Between 2020/21 and 2021/22, the number of qualifications awarded at postgraduate level increased by 13%. This increase was largely driven by increases in both masters taught and other postgraduate taught qualifications”. 

HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 SCOTLAND

HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 SCOTLAND

HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 UK

HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 UK

Equality

Some subjects studied continue to show an imbalance between male and female students.

  • In veterinary sciences, psychology and subjects allied to medicine close to 4 in every 5 students are female and the proportion of students within each of these subject areas who are female has increased in 2021/22. 
  •  Engineering and technology and computing had the highest proportion of male enrolments at 79% and 77% respectively. The proportion of male students enrolling in these subjects decreased in 2021/22.

Overall, 57% of students are female (UK), 59% Scotland , 43% male (UK) 40% Scotland.

Students of White ethnicity accounted for 73% of all UK domiciled enrolments, in Scotland that percentage was 89% White.

A newly published research report by academics at Queen’s University Belfast in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, has found that Education departments in the UK higher education (HE) sector have more inequality than other discipline areas. Their report is about the staff who teach in this sector.

( HE)Education employed staff are recorded as:

  • ‘white’ ethnicity (85%)
  • UK primary nationality (88%)
  • Christian belief (22%)
  • High Income countries (97%).

Staff recorded as ‘black, Asian and minority ethnic’ (BAME) were marginalized, at a proportion of 8% in Education, which was less than half that employed in the sector (16.5%). There was also less attainment and progression for these staff.

There was a lack of parity in attainment and progression was observed between the sexes, despite the discipline of Education being predominantly composed of female staff. Male staff were generally promoted at earlier age and in higher proportions, and higher proportions progressed to professor.

Dr Dina Belluigi, from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s said:

 “We explored official statistical data, reported by universities in the period 2015-2020, to analyse what it revealed about inequality in terms of the access and the positioning of socio-demographic groups – looking at the protected characteristics of sex, ethnicity, age, disability, religious belief and primary nationality. Where it was possible, we went further to explore intersections between these.

“We compared what we observed in the discipline, to that of all academic staff in UK higher education, and in each devolved nation of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales where differences did show themselves. The study found that there is considerable structural inequality in Education as a discipline, and in the UK.”

The full report ‘Education: The State of the Discipline’ is available on the BERA website: https://www.bera.ac.uk/publication/education-the-state-of-the-discipline-staff-equality

Professor Arday, from the University of Glasgow, stated that:

“The importance of educational research, oriented around illuminating patterns of social and structural inequality, cannot be underestimated in such factious and decisive times. This report provides a point of departure concerning the issues that infringe on educational outcomes across many intersecting areas.”

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