This happens every year and in the same way. BBC Scotland take a report on widening access to Higher Education and extract for reporting, only those figures which seem to suggest Scottish Government policy is failing. Here’s the short report, broadcast six times between 6am and 9am, this morning:
‘Fewer students from the most deprived parts of Scotland are entering university. Figures from the Scottish Funding Council show there was a 0.2% drop in the number of entrants from the poorest areas last year.’
The impact, on viewers perceptions of the SNP government, of bad news like this, repeated every 30 minutes, to an audience more sensitive to negative news at that time, may be quite powerful.
As always, with the best propaganda, it’s not inaccurate, in itself. It is, however missing key facts required for both balance and overall accuracy. The figures used for the report were taken from the Scottish Funding Council Report on Widening Access 2016-17, published on 30th May 2018.
Easily found, on the same page as the figures used by BBC Scotland (3), we can read this crucial piece of information:
‘Combining the number of entrants to full-time FE and HE courses at college and full-time first-degree courses at university, there were 25,490 total entrants from the most deprived 20%, and 15,635 from the least deprived 20%. This means that those from the most deprived 20% have the highest total number of entrants across these full-time levels of study.’
This point is made very clearly and suggests a headline directly contradictory of the BBC Scotland one, today:
‘More students from the most deprived parts of Scotland are entering Higher Education’
According to UCAS, around one third of applicants to Higher Education programmes in Scotland are made directly to local colleges which have articulation arrangements with universities allowing students to progress to degree programmes there after completing years 1 and/or 2 in the local college. This approach allows students to reduce travel and accommodation costs dramatically and is likely to be particularly appealing to those from the poorest areas.
The UCAS report in 2016 seemed to support this idea:
‘The problem is that there is rather less sub-degree HE in the non-Scottish parts of the UK than in Scotland but most of what there is appears to be recruited through UCAS; meanwhile in Scotland there’s a much larger amount of HE provided in FE colleges, pretty much all at sub-degree level, which is not recruited through UCAS at all…. Indeed, it’s the HE provided in colleges which gives Scotland the edge in overall participation rates.’
This happens every year. It’s not a difficult point. The failure to inform year after year suggests a clear agenda to do so – propaganda, thought control?