In the 2014/15 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government set out an ambition to tackle socioeconomic inequality in Scottish higher education, stating that:
"A child born today in one of our most deprived communities should have no lesser chance of entering higher education than a child born in one of our least deprived. We want every child – whatever their background – to have an equal chance of attending university."
The Commission on Widening Access was established in April 2015 to advise Ministers on the steps necessary to achieve this ambition. The Commission published its final report, A Blueprint for Fairness, in March 2016. The report contains 34 recommendations and calls on all parts of the education system and policymakers to work together to deliver fair access.
The Access Delivery Group is being established by the Scottish Government in response to the Commission's call for systemic, cooperative leadership and that implementation be placed "in the hands of the experts".
The Delivery Group exists to lead and oversee the implementation of the recommendations contained in A Blueprint for Fairness and, by extension, the delivery of the Government's ambitions on tackling socioeconomic inequality in higher education, ensuring that by 2030 students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds represent 20% of Scottish domiciled entrants to higher education.
The Delivery Group's work is also a key part of the Government's wider vision to tackle inequality, create a fairer Scotland and generate inclusive economic growth.
The Group is anticipated to operate until 2020 in the first instance, after which its continuation will be reviewed.
The Delivery Group's primary purpose is to drive and oversee the implementation of A Blueprint for Fairness, thereby supporting the Scottish Government to meet its goal of tackling socioeconomic inequality in higher education.
In particular, the Delivery Group will bring together senior leaders from across the education system and policymaking to:
- develop a plan for delivery of the Commission's recommendations to include key activities and milestones, and be accountable for the delivery of that plan
- co-ordinate and encourage a whole systems approach to delivery and a collaborative approach to identifying solutions and overcoming delivery challenges where they arise
- provide mutual advice, support and, where appropriate, challenge
- provide a mechanism through which the Commissioner for Fair Access and Scottish Ministers can receive regular updates on progress and challenges with implementation
- provide a forum to discuss and coordinate implementation of future policy developments to reduce student inequalities in all aspects of higher education. These may include developments in areas not covered in detail by the Commission, e.g. retention; graduate outcomes; and recommendations from the Commissioner for Fair Access
- consider, where appropriate, the impact on its work of developments in related policy areas such as attainment, providing support and exchanging progress updates as required
Delivery Group membership
The membership of the Group is determined by the Scottish Government (the list of current members is at Paper 1/1). The Chair of the Group will be the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.
The composition of the Group will be reviewed each year as part of the annual review of progress.
Role of the Chair
The Chair is responsible for leading the meeting to reach decisions. The Delivery Group will, in so far as is possible and practicable, make decisions on the basis of agreement by consensus.
The Scottish Government will provide secretariat support for the meetings of the Group.
Timing and location of meetings
The Group will meet on an appropriate number of occasions in a year to carry out its duties effectively. It is anticipated that the Group will normally meet quarterly.
The schedule of meetings for each year will be agreed by the Group in advance.
Agenda and papers
Agenda items will be developed by the Scottish Government, following discussion with the Group at the preceding meeting. Any member can, by contacting the Scottish Government's Access Team, suggest items of business. The agenda and designation of business will be decided by the Chair.
Where it is relevant and supports learning and the sharing of practice, specialist input may be invited as part of the agenda. Other observers with a relevant interest may also be invited to attend meetings.
The agenda of business and accompanying papers will be distributed one week before a scheduled meeting of the Group, where possible.
Minutes of a Group meeting will be submitted to the Chair for preliminary approval, and thereafter to the subsequent meeting of the Group for formal approval.
Delivery Group agendas and disclosable papers will be published on the Scottish Government's website.