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My guidance to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) makes it clear that widening access to higher education for under-represented and disadvantaged groups is a priority of the Scottish Executive.
A range of activities have been undertaken to support this, benefiting individuals from disadvantaged and under-represented groups across Scotland. These include the provision of additional places, incentives and rewards provided by SHEFC through institutional core funding, the promotion and support by SHEFC of collaboration, networking and the sharing of good practice and the facilitation of self help and institutionally led activities, such as the work of the Wider Access Regional Forums in managing and supporting specific projects addressing locally identified priorities. An example of such a project is the Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS), a partnership between the main Lothian higher education institutions and schools in the area to raise awareness of HE and aspirations towards attainment levels required for university entry.
In addition to these activities, the Principals of Scotland’s higher education institutions, which are autonomous bodies, have committed to a social inclusion pledge undertaking, among other things, to promote inclusion through fair admission and the valuing of all achievement.
Contributions to tuition fees have been abolished for all eligible students undertaking full-time HE courses at Scottish institutions since 2000. Since 2001-02, young students from less affluent backgrounds have been able to receive up to £2,050 (2002-03 rate) of their annual support entitlement in the form of a non-repayable Young Students Bursary. In addition, lone parents with at least one dependant child can receive £1,025 towards their child care costs. Mature students may now also be able to receive a discretionary non-repayable Mature Students Bursary, in addition to their loan entitlement, from their institutions.