CLAIMS that letting more students from deprived backgrounds into university could "set up kids to fail" have been dismissed by Scottish funding chiefs.

Professor Paul Hagan, director of research at the Scottish Funding Council, said the suggestion was completely at odds with current Government policies on widening access.

"I have heard the suggestion we are setting up kids to fail, but that is not where we are at all," Mr Hagan told a conference in Edinburgh.

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"It is about getting these students into university then supporting them."

Mr Hagan's comments at the event, organised by Holyrood Magazine, come a few days after St Andrews University said it was being "demonised" for its access policies.

Stephen Magee, vice-principal with responsibility for admissions at the institution, said: "We know that we could play the political game and change these figures overnight by lowering our entry grades, but experience tells us we would simply be admitting these kids to fail, and that would be utterly dishonest."

The university said it was undertaking a range of initiatives to widen access, such as contextualised admissions and bursary and scholarship schemes.

Initiatives announced this week include a new Gateway to Computer Science programme for up to 15 access students with guaranteed entry to the second year of a degree course for those that pass.

The university will also work with the Scottish Wider Access Project and speak to Dundee College, Adam Smith College and Carnegie College to encourage more students to apply straight from college.