THE row over widening participation figures in Govan earlier this month should be more than a temporary embarrassment for one politician using inaccurate statistics. However, it should be an opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the way we discuss the issue.

While it is right that politicians challenge universities to do more, it is vital that this does not stray towards ignoring or talking down the progress we’ve seen in recent years.

This is not just sensitivity from universities; it is that for many young people, the biggest challenge has been persuading them that higher education is open to them. To continually hear negative stories about how few people from their communities they can expect to join them in lecture halls can only exacerbate that problem – particularly when the stories are based on inaccurate figures.

The University of Glasgow is leading the way on Widening Participation. We work with pupils across 161 secondary schools in the west of Scotland. More than 25,000 pupils and adult learners participate in our pre-entry programmes every year. Partnerships with local authorities and organisations like FOCUS West and the Scottish Wider Access Programme allow us to broaden this work further. Entrants from SIMD20 backgrounds made up 13.4 per cent of our total intake in 2016/17 – while students from SIMD40 backgrounds made up almost 28 per cent.

In Govan alone, we have a record of progress, with around 300 students engaged annually. Progression into higher education from Govan High School grew to 24 per cent in 2017/18, from a low of just five per cent in 2006/7 – that is a five-fold rise.

But while the hard work of our Widening Participation team and the talented students we work with has had results, there is more to be done.

That’s why we’re not just focused on our record but on our ambitions. Recently, we announced plans to build a new campus in Govan – the Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus, focussing on high-tech industries which can be as important to 21st century Govan as shipbuilding was in the 20th.

The community will be at the heart of our plans – and in the coming months, we will work with them to design a major new Widening Participation scheme to be based at the campus.

We are determined to serve the whole city – with bases in the west, east and north of Glasgow and the planned Govan campus in the south. More than any other, we are truly Glasgow’s university, with a reach unparalleled elsewhere.

However, we don’t just want to represent every geographical area of Glasgow – we want to represent every community, as open to people in Govan as people in Kelvinside.

This benefits universities as well as the communities themselves. We rightly highlight the need to attract talented students internationally – but we mustn’t forget that there is a wealth of previously untapped talent on our doorstep. And it would be a tragedy to see it go to waste.

Already we are seeing the first Govan High student come through our Medical School Glasgow Access Programme and go on to study medicine – and we were delighted that our GAP programme won recognition in last week’s Herald HE Awards.

The strides we have made already with communities like Govan should never be denigrated. To do so doesn’t just ignore the progress made by universities and schools – it ignores the achievements of the young people we work with. Instead, we should all celebrate the progress made, and commit to working with universities, schools and communities in striving to do more, helping every young person fulfil their potential.