Students from the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland are less likely to secure a professional job quickly, according to a new paper by the Commissioner for Fair Access to Universities.
The paper claimed that this ‘silent discrimination’ in the jobs market highlights issues faced by students that may need to be addressed so they get the full benefit of a university education and degree.
One key point is that students from poorer backgrounds are less likely to take on a postgraduate course, like a Master’s course or a doctorate.
According to the author, Sir Peter Scott:
The gap is explained, partly although not wholly, by the fact they are more likely to have studied subjects at first-degree level in which fewer students overall progress to postgraduate courses – although this begs the question of why they are under-represented in higher-status subjects where postgraduate progression rates are higher.
He continues that the gap is also partly explained by the fact that ‘more socially deprived students’ are concentrated in universities with ‘lower postgraduate rates’.
However, Scott ‘begs the question’ as to why students from low-income areas are underrepresented at ‘more prestigious institutions,’ where more students continue on to postgraduate studies.
In general, Scotland’s prestigious ‘ancient’ universities and the institutions that became universities in the 1960s have fewer students from the most deprived areas of the country, known as SIMD 20 areas.
Only Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of the West of Scotland have met the long-term target for admissions from SIMD 20 areas.
The paper adds:
Finally, even the students from more socially deprived backgrounds who do progress to postgraduate study are still significantly less likely to get professional jobs six months after leaving, which suggests that they continue to suffer perhaps silent but nevertheless powerful discrimination.
Widening access to university is one of the Scottish Government’s primary objectives although it is recognised that to do this requires a tremendous amount of work and so the timescale for some extends to 2030.
This is because the plan involves a range of issues, starting from raising attainment in primary and secondary schools, dealing with deterring misconceptions about university, and financial challenges faced by students.
However, the story does not end at getting students to university; as the paper suggests, even after university, students from poorer backgrounds face challenges in the job market.
Anecdotally, the lack of personal connections is one such reason why students facing financial troubles may not get the prestigious jobs out there.
Their inability to travel over the summer or find work experience in far afield, typically impressive to employers, may also spell the difference in job applications.
There is also the suggestion that because financially disadvantaged students sometimes have to take on a part-time job or something similar, they can’t be as social and thus they can’t enjoy the wealth of contacts in their professional career that others may be able to grow at university.