ONE of Scotland’s most prestigious universities has entered the clearing system for the first time in a bid to enrol more students from poorer backgrounds.

Edinburgh University will offer up to 50 places to disadvantaged students across Scotland on a range of different courses.

Because the university has more applications from qualified students than places there is usually no need to enter the Ucas clearing process - which matches prospective students with available places.

The move comes as universities across Scotland step up activities to improve access in order to meet Scottish Government targets.

Ministers wants institutions to have one fifth of all those starting university in 2030 to be from the poorest 20 per cent of communities.

The government has an interim target for individual institutions to have ten per cent of students from the 20 per cent most deprived backgrounds by 2021.

However, although recent statistics show the overall proportion is 10.4 per cent, Scotland’s older universities have much lower proportions.

Edinburgh University said the places - which are funded by the Scottish Government under a three year scheme - would be for students who wanted to study a degree after getting their exam results next week.

They will also be available to those who have applied to other universities, but want to look at options at Edinburgh.

Ian Sutherland, head of admissions at Edinburgh University, said: “We believe that coming from an area of disadvantage should never be a barrier to success at university.

“Offering access places through clearing provides an opportunity to help highly qualified applicants consider their options, particularly if they have not thought about applying here before.”

The places are available through the Ucas clearing process to potential students from the least affluent 20 per cent of postcodes in Scotland defined using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD20).

The places are also open to those who do not live within SIMD20 areas, but have spent time in local authority care.

The places are available to students who have achieved the minimum entry standards for 2017/18. The majority of degree programmes will be offering places under the scheme.

The Scottish Government has funded the additional places as part of its commitment to widen access to higher education.

Successful applicants from outside the city of Edinburgh will also be eligible for a guaranteed offer of university accommodation.

They may be eligible for one of the university’s Scotland Scholarships which, dependent on household income, are worth up to £2000 a year.

Students are free to use the Scholarship for accommodation or other expenses. Successful applicants from LEAPS Group 1 schools - which typically have a below average rate of progression to higher education - are also guaranteed an offer of accommodation.

Places on the widening access clearing scheme will be advertised on the day of Scottish clearing which begins on 8th August.