University of the West of Scotland (UWS) yesterday welcomed Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills, John Swinney MSP, to its Paisley campus to showcase the transformational impact the University has had in promoting inclusivity and widening access to higher education in Scotland.

During his visit, the Deputy First Minister met with UWS Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Craig Mahoney; President of the UWS Students’ Association, Emma Shotter, and
some of UWS’ inspirational students to find out more about the life-changing role UWS plays in supporting its students to succeed.

UWS is widely recognised as the sector’s leading university for widening access and yearon-year ensures more people from disadvantaged backgrounds go to university than any
other institution.

During the visit the Deputy First Minister heard how UWS’ innovative student support services, personalised and flexible education delivery and interactive technology-supported
learning is paying real dividends for students with recent highlights including:

    • The University exceeding its target for positive student outcomes three years ahead of schedule, with 85.7 per cent of graduates securing professional employment or
      further study in 2016/17
    • The percentage of students continuing their studies after their first year increasing from 75% in 2011/12 to 86% in 2016/17, and
    • Continued increases in student satisfaction and application rates

As part of his visit, the Deputy First Minister joined some of UWS’ inspiring students to discuss their own personal achievements at the University and how their higher education
experience at UWS has shaped their lives.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said: “The Scottish Government is firmly committed to widening access to higher education, and the focus cannot just be on entrants – it must also be on retention, outcomes and destinations too. UWS has shown great commitment in all of these areas and as a result it is supporting many students from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential. It is very encouraging to hear how UWS’ flexible, personalised approach has helped attract students who might not otherwise have continued
their studies.”

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at University of the West of Scotland, said: “Last year I was part of a delegation of higher education leaders accompanying the Deputy First Minister on an official visit to India to demonstrate Scotland’s reputation in research, innovation and learning. I was therefore delighted to host the Deputy First Minister at our Paisley campus today, showcasing first-hand UWS’ impact on the national and global stage. I was particularly pleased to highlight the important work we have
undertaken to widen access to higher education in Scotland, our world-leading teaching and learning approaches as well as the outstanding research and enterprise activity we are
successfully delivering.

“During the visit, we discussed with the Deputy First Minister our commitment to the support, retention, and successful outcomes of students and the priority we place on ensuring our
students have the best possible experience.

“We shared with the Deputy First Minister the encouraging statistics as a result of our widening access initiatives, including the fact that the percentage of students continuing their
studies after their first year at UWS has increased significantly in recent years, which we hope will continue to rise because of the positive and proactive steps we are taking to
support our students.

“At UWS, we are delivering on our purpose to change lives and transform communities through outstanding, distinctive and progressive higher education.”

Kayleigh McArthur, Tourism Management Graduate at University of the West of Scotland, said: “It was amazing to meet the Deputy First Minister and share my experience at UWS with him. I spoke to him about my background and how the support I received from the University throughout my time as a student was crucial in helping me graduate recently
with my degree, something I’m extremely proud of after the hurdles I’ve overcome.

“At UWS, there are no barriers in the way of getting the help and advice you need. Leaving school, I went straight to another university, but looking back I don’t think I was ready for it. I
later went to college, and then joined UWS in third year, where I found everyone so friendly and helpful, and I was advised I could go part-time when my health affected my studies.

“Because of the incredible and accessible support at the University, it motivated me to become a student ambassador and I hope I can now inspire and show others that no matter
what they’re facing, or where they’re from, they can achieve so much at UWS.”

As well as hearing about UWS’ widening access performance, the Deputy First Minister also learned more about the globally relevant research in areas including thin-films, 5G, gravitational waves and Dementia that is happening right now at UWS as well as receiving an update on the University’s £110m Lanarkshire Campus, which, when opened this September, will be Scotland’s brand-new, ultra-modern university campus.

While on campus the Deputy First Minister also visited the studio of Professor Alexander Stoddart, The Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland, who has his base at UWS.

Photo Credits: Martin Shields