Following last week's NUS Scotland report on widening access, the Saltire Foundation would like to highlight our support for widening access at Scottish universities through our Saltire Scholars Undergraduate Internship Programme.
As the NUS Scotland report stated, 'far from being a form of social engineering, or an act of charity, widening access is actually a way of ensuring our precious opportunities in education are distributed to those with the most potential, and the greatest likelihood of performing well.' As a charity that was founded to 'find, fuel and spark' the next generation of business leaders in Scotland, we know that finding those with the greatest potential is key to building the future success of Scotland.
Our internship programme is fully-funded for students so that there are no barriers to access/participation on the programme. We also specifically seek out students who would not otherwise have access to these opportunities through our recruitment and admissions processes. We work with organisations such as the Robertson Trust and the Hunter Foundation and increasingly with university widening access offices to promote Saltire Foundation internships to their students. In our admissions processes, we endeavour to take a holistic look at candidates, taking into consideration factors such as if they are first in their family to attend higher education, what school they attended and if they receive a SAAS bursary.
By matching great talent with prodigious opportunity, we accelerate the skills, confidence and ambition of our programme participants. From our experience, students from widening access backgrounds are very successful on their internships and beyond. For example, working with the University of St Andrews widening access team, we successfully recruited 2 Scholars for our programme this year. Both Scholars have performed exceptionally well on their internships and have already become active members of our community.
Indeed, many leading business figures we work with are specifically interested in supporting students from widening access backgrounds. We have seen this through financial support for specific students and/or mentoring and networking support. What is notable is that the mentoring and networking support provided by these individuals does not end when the programme ends, but continues throughout the student's final year at the university and beyond.
Although our programme is just in its sixth year of existence, we have already begun to see the impact it has made on the individual lives of Scholars (particularly those from widening access backgrounds) and more broadly in Scotland. We have seen how alumni who have come through the Robertson Trust have exceled in their careers post-internship and have greater ambition gained from their internship experience. We have seen how our alumni are committed to giving back to Scotland, both through their professional lives and through community work.
We ask our Scholars to return to their schools post-internship to talk about their experiences. We believe this is important, especially for those from widening access backgrounds, as it raises awareness of amazing opportunities available to students once they reach university. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has highlighted, aspiration is not the main issue for school students in Scotland; it is having the knowledge of opportunities that are available to achieve this aspiration. We believe that in our small way we are contributing to this.
Our record on widening access is by no means perfect and we strive for continuous improvement. We hope that by working more closely with universities we can provide clear pathways with regards to employability for widening access students as well as to promote awareness of opportunities available at university for school students from widening access backgrounds.
Our programmes strive to develop the young people who have the capability and talent to unlock Scotland's latent commercial potential. Developing the next generation of leaders who are confident and entrepreneurial, with a global mindset and come from all backgrounds is key to the future economic success of Scotland.