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10 August 2016, 14:46
There has been a small rise in the proportion of university students who come from Scotland's most-deprived communities, a new report has found.
The gap between retention rates - those continuing into the next year of study - for students from the poorest areas and the average for all students is also narrowing.
The findings are contained in the Scottish Funding Council's latest report on progress with widening access to further and higher education.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made tackling the educational attainment gap a key priority of the Scottish Government.
The SFC report found the proportion of students going to university in 2014/15 who were from the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland was 14.1%, up from 14% in 2013/14 and 12.8% in 2011/12.
Retention for students from the most deprived 20% of neighbourhoods continued the upward trend from 84% in 2009-10 to 88.1% in 2014-15.
Overall retention rates at university have increased from 89.7% in 2009/10 to 91.3% in 2014/15 - although the figure is down from 91.7% in 2013/14.
Figures for 2014/15 show there is still a marked difference between the destinations of the most-deprived and least-deprived pupils leaving school.
In 2014/15, about a fifth of school leavers from the most-deprived areas went on to higher education, with around a third going into further education.
In contrast, almost two-thirds of those from the least-deprived areas went on to higher education, with about 15% attending further education.
The SFC report comes after figures released by Ucas on Tuesday showed the number of applicants accepted to higher education courses from the 20% most-deprived areas was 3,800 so far this year, up by 5% from last year.
John Kemp, interim chief executive of the SFC, said: "Over the 10 years the Scottish Funding Council has been collecting and reporting on this information the trend has been towards a fairer and more inclusive system of further and higher education in Scotland.
"There's still a lot more to do and SFC shares the ambitions of the Scottish Government of making further and faster change in widening access to education.''
Vonnie Sandlan, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said: "These new statistics show that we're taking small steps in the right direction towards fair access.
"While it's encouraging to see access rates for our poorest students going up, it's still marginal and not fast enough if we're to truly achieve our ambitions on fair access.
"While this is clearly moving in the right direction, it's only a small one - and we cannot forget that truly fair access still remains very far away.''