PUPILS from the poorest communities in Scotland are more likely to apply to university than ever before, new figures show.

The proportion of Scottish school-leavers applying to higher education from the most deprived areas has jumped by 50 per cent since 2006 to 15 per cent.

The increase was welcomed by the Scottish Government as evidence that a number of strategies to widen access are beginning to pay off.

Angela Constance, the Education Secretary, said: "The Scottish Government has been very clear that we want every child, whatever their background, to have an equal chance of benefitting from higher education.

"This research indicates that we are making welcome progress to meet our long term target to eradicate inequality in access to higher education, but there is undoubtedly more to do."

The figures, published by universities admissions service Ucas, also highlighted the significant gap which persists between the poorest and most well off communities.

Currently, some 52 per cent of pupils from the least deprived areas apply to university after a five per cent increase since 2006.

Ms Constance said the new Commission on Widening Access, chaired by Dame Ruth Silver, had already begun its work to advise ministers on how to make future progress.

She added: "The commission will shortly issue a call for evidence marking the start of a wider programme of engagement."

The Ucas figures show young people from the least deprived areas are three and a half times more likely to apply to university than those in the most deprived areas - a reduction from five times more likely in 2006.

For all backgrounds, the application rate in 2015 is close to the highest rate recorded over the period.

There have been a number of strategies put in place in recent years to try and improve Scotland's record on widening access.

These include university outreach schemes to encourage talented pupils from poorer backgrounds to consider university.

It is also now a condition of grant for universities that they set out how they intend to increase participation.