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News Details at Edinburgh Napier University


Showcasing our Widening Participation credentials
Politicians Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP and Leo Docherty MP visit Craiglockhart on fact-finding trips.
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Edinburgh Napier welcomed two senior politicians to Craiglockhart to hear about our widening access work.

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, met students from various universities across the country at a Universities Scotland event on the campus.

She also took part in a Q & A hosted by Peter Tormey from our Widening Participation team which shone a spotlight on the students’ experience throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and the support they have received from their respective widening access teams.

Meanwhile, Leo Docherty MP, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, also paid a visit to the campus yesterday to hear about how the University provides higher education and employment opportunities to armed forces veterans.

The higher education sector is currently celebrating its achievement of the interim widening access target set by the Scottish Government.

Ms Somerville hosted a group discussion with students whose routes into university are considered non-traditional as a way of recognising the sector’s progress on widening access.

Participants included students with experience of care, students who progressed into university through college, and students who attended summer schools. The Cabinet Secretary listened to the students’ experiences of university and learned about the support they have received from their institutions throughout their studies.

2021 is a significant milestone in universities’ commitment to widening access as it’s the year that the Commission on Widening Access (CoWA) recommended that 16% of university entrants should be from SIMD20 backgrounds with an overall aim to reach 20% by 2030. With the latest figures showing that 16.4% of students were from SIMD20 backgrounds in the academic year 2019/20, universities have hit the interim target two years ahead of schedule.

Ms Somerville said, “There’s real enthusiasm in the university sector for the widening access agenda and that’s been demonstrated by the fact that this interim target has been met. It’s a real demonstration that the sector is committed to working with government and others to make sure that we deliver for young people.”

She added, “I think the important thing I learnt from the students today is that their experiences within Covid have been difficult and challenging, and we need to also take into account how we come out of Covid and continue to support young people.

“The experiences that they have had within Widening Access have been really really good to listen to because it shows if you can give personalised support at the time that’s right for that person then they can see the real opportunities ahead of them at university and beyond. It’s been really heartening to hear the really positive experiences that these young people have had over the most difficult couple of years that we could all have imagined.”


Leo Docherty discussed all our military-related work, including research projects and transitioning into the sector from armed forces life, with Edinburgh Napier’s Dr Gerri Matthews-Smith, Claire Biggar and Fiona Forrest-Anderson.

Edinburgh Napier was the first university in Scotland to receive a gold award from the Ministry of Defence that recognises its commitment to the armed forces community.

The Defence Employer Recognition Scheme showcases employers who have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and are actively supporting the armed forces community, including ex-service personnel and their families.

Mr Docherty hailed the University’s “amazing work in promoting education in the serving community and also in the veteran community.”

He added, “We’re really keen that people see an armed forces career as a way of gaining skills and getting a brilliant career in the civilian world afterwards. I’m really impressed by the research and studies they are doing here in Edinburgh Napier. It’s been a fascinating time.”


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