Every university in Scotland should promote equal access to its services and the principle should apply to everyone:

students, lecturers, professors and the senior people who run universities. But there is a danger of one step forward and one step back today with the news, on the one hand, that the gender gap in the universities' governing bodies has been closed and news, on the other, that the Scottish Government is unlikely to reverse its decision to cut the bursaries for poorer students.

The news on the chairs of university courts is good, with five out of six recent appointments going to women. It was in 2011 that Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the principal of Robert Gordon University, first recommended universities should be required to ensure the membership of their governing bodies was at least 40% female and, although his recommendation was rejected by the Scottish Government, the universities do appear to be trying to get their act together on the issue.

There is still some way to go though. Most of the new appointments to the chairs may well be female, and this represents an improvement on three years ago when none of the chairs were women. But the most recent figures on the membership of courts show it is still overwhelmingly male.

In preferring the option of a voluntary code of conduct over legislation to force universities to act on equality, the Scottish Government is also running the risk of slippage in the years to come. The Labour MSP Neil Findlay has said university courts resemble an old boys' network. When around half of lectureships are held by women and, on some courses, more than half the students are female, the old boys should not be allowed to take over again.

Michael Russell, the education secretary, says he welcomes the progress that appears to have been made on addressing the matter of female representation in university management and he does have a good record on widening access generally. The Scottish Government has funded hundreds of extra places for students from deprived backgrounds and the latest figures from the sector show a small increase in the number of students from the most deprived postcode areas.

However, Scotland still sends a smaller proportion of pupils from lower socio-economic groups to university than England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the decision by the Scottish Government to cut bursaries for poor students has raised concerns it could discourage some students from going to university.

The government's argument is that, although it has cut bursaries, it has increased the total amount of funding available to students. The fact that Scottish students do not have to pay tuition fees does also remove one of the financial burdens faced by students south of the Border.

But a close watch will need to be kept on universities to ensure access continues to widen. Scotland's universities, from the lecture halls up to the governing bodies, should be representative of society as a whole. There is still more work to be done .