A university has seen a fourfold increase in the proportion of medical students coming from the poorest communities in Scotland.

Glasgow University now has nearly 20 per cent of its medical students from MD20 postcodes - the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the country. A decade ago the proportion was just 4.5 per cent.

Dr Neil Croll, the university’s head of widening participation, said the transformation was down to a range of widening participation programmes.

He said: “There are many historical and deeply-rooted barriers blocking the way to university for bright pupils from disadvantaged communities. It’s a tragic waste of talent that hurts the country.

“Essentially, we have to remove those barriers. It’s simply a case of being serious about identifying these barriers at all levels of the process and then either removing them completely or finding ways of getting round them.

“If universities are serious about this we need to understand the social, cultural and economic complexities and challenges that exist in the lives of our target students. That’s what widening access is all about.”

Glasgow University’s GAP programme is one of a suite of pre-entry widening participation for school leavers and adult returners to education.

These include early secondary, summer school, top-up, and access to career programmes and have expanded over the last few years.

They now reach around 25,000 pupils in more than 120 secondary schools in the west of Scotland and their summer schools target pupils across all of Scotland’s 360 secondary schools.

Students have to navigate the university tailored widening access programme with those that are successful allowed entry with lower grades.

The normal entry tariff for medicine at Glasgow is five As, but access students are allowed in with four As and a B or, in some circumstances, three As and two Bs.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, said: “The university runs extensive outreach programmes to ensure we recruit the most able students regardless of socio-economic background.”

Full story in today’s Herald magazine