Widening access

We will deepen our commitment to widening access and articulation, raising aspirations and creating flexible learning pathways in partnership with schools and colleges, through initiatives including College Connect, and demonstrating the impact of the Advanced Higher Hub.

GCU’s tradition of widening access to higher education is central to Strategy 2020.

Our students come from all backgrounds and they benefit from academic standards and work to enhance the student learning experience that has been conferred with the highest judgment by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

97% of our students come from state schools, compared with 87% for the Scottish sector as a whole. 17.1% of young Scottish entrants come from the lowest quintile of multiple deprivation compared with a sector average of 10.4%.

GCU is proud to be Scotland’s top modern university for first degree completion (79.9%), with a low drop-out rate of 8.8%, further evidence of strength in retention and student support. 

Schools and College Connect

Our School Connect initiative provides focused interventions to support secondary school pupils to progress to GCU, and helps new students to make the most of their early days at University. Our outreach team engages with almost 1,000 senior school pupils every year.

The first year retention rate for students from the secondary schools who enrolled in our programme in 2013 was 100%. In 2014, the proportion of entrants from MD20 backgrounds was 78% and 93% were from MD40 backgrounds.

A large number of our undergraduates have taken the step from college to university with us.

Our partnerships with colleges are an important response to direction from the Scottish Funding Council to build strategic partnerships with colleges and to enable successful student transitions, progression and completion.

The College Connect Strategy 2013-20 represents a new and exciting phase in GCU’s relationship with partner colleges and the University has drawn on the good practice developed through the many initiatives already in place. These include the Greater Glasgow Articulation Partnership (GGAP) and the work undertaken by the School and College Connect Outreach Team, the Mentoring and Peer Support Scheme (MAPs) and the Learning Development Centres in the three academic Schools.

The University launched College Connect in 2014 as a framework to support articulation and further enhance relationships with partner colleges. College Connect is underpinned by an effective infrastructure for articulation, including strategic partnerships with the Glasgow colleges; joint planning on curriculum design and delivery, recruitment, admissions, transition, internationalisation and joint CPD for staff. 


GCU is a leading university for attracting students from college, with significant numbers of entrants joining Levels 2 and 3 with advanced standing. We are committed to providing an excellent University experience for articulating students, supported by academic staff, School‐based Learning Development Centres, central support services and the Students’ Association.

In 2013‐14, GCU exceeded its articulation target and in 2014‐ 15 GCU has 1,000 articulating students, including the 157 additional articulation places awarded by SFC. Our initial evaluation of the Additional Articulation Places Scheme also shows that while 76% of respondents indicated that they intended to progress to degree study at GCU when they commenced their HN study this figure had risen to 95% about one year into their HN study. Furthermore, 42% of respondents viewed themselves as a part‐college / part‐university student, suggesting that GCU’s approach has promoted a sense of learning pathways.  

GCU is committed to maximising opportunities for guaranteed progression from colleges through Articulation Agreements, whilst also ensuring that articulation places are available for students not coming directly from college. We play a key role in creating new articulation routes, for example the new pathway for Nursing and an Indie Games Development programme designed with college partners and Creative Skillset UK. Having successfully mainstreamed articulation across the University, we aim to maintain a leading position for articulation, as part of our wider agenda on promoting inclusive opportunities. We will work in partnership with the SFC, universities and colleges on initiatives such as the National Articulation Database, the Glasgow Curriculum Review and the evaluation of the Additional Articulation Places Scheme.

The Caledonian Club

The Caledonian Club, GCU’s flagship widening participation initiative, has worked with 11,500 children, 3000 parents and enlisted 500 student mentors since its establishment in 2008.

Our student mentors are the heart and soul of the Club, supporting all activities alongside Caledonian Club and university staff. 

The Caledonian Club starts work with members when they are in nursery, and it continues until the end of secondary school, delivering programmes in collaboration with local communities in Castlemilk, Haghill, Milton, Drumchapel and Springburn to raise educational and social aspiration, and increase awareness of higher education and the opportunities it can offer.

In 2015, the Caledonian Club launched a family-focused engagement project called ‘Families Learning Together @ GCU’, bringing together 100 pupils from the Caledonian Club’s five partner primary schools along with parents and family members to GCU’s campus for a week of educational activities.

John McGrory, General Manager of Morgan Stanley’s office in Glasgow said: “Giving back is a core value of Morgan Stanley and its employees, and we are proud to be able to provide this vital funding and support to the Caledonian Club’s Families Learning Together @ GCU programme.”

Parent members are invited to access formal and informal learning opportunities, including a course delivered through the Open University, to support them in their education ambitions. 

Research that was undertaken to evaluate the impact of the Caledonian Club found it has improved the aspirations of both children and their parents to go to University.

Now in its fourth year, the GCU London Club is expecting to bring the total engagement to 692 pupils and 247 parent members exceeding the University’s targets.

GCU London Club has been working with St Matthias Church of England Primary to introduce its reception class pupils to university life.

Twenty-three pupils, all aged five, took part in a series of activities on campus, working with GCU London Club staff member Molly Taylor and student mentors. The pupils took part in an afternoon of age-appropriate activities on campus relating to subject areas which can be studied at university.

Their parents also attended the event to learn more about how GCU London engages with local primary pupils.

Advanced Higher Hub

Sixth-year pupils studying at Glasgow Caledonian University’s Advanced Higher Hub celebrated an outstanding pass rate of 90% during the second year of the programme.

There were 167 exam presentations from students attending 21 Glasgow City Council schools. The pupils studied English; Mathematics; Biology; Chemistry; History; Business Management and Modern Studies at the Advanced Higher Hub, with 40% of the pupils receiving A grades at SCQF Level 7, and a further 30% receiving a B grade. Pupils studying History and English received 100% pass rates.

The Advanced Higher Hub supports GCU’s strategic commitment to delivering excellence in learning and an outstanding student experience which equips students with the employability and entrepreneurial skills to succeed as global citizens.

As a University for the Common Good, we support widening access and articulation, raising aspirations and creating flexible learning pathways in partnership with schools and colleges.

GCU’s Advanced Higher Hub opened in August 2013, supported by the Scottish Funding Council and in partnership with Glasgow City Council. It is the first project in Scotland to employ school teachers on a university campus. During the first teaching year, the pass rate was 74%.   

Enhancement-Led Institutional Review

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has confirmed the quality of the student experience and the academic standard of awards at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) following its review this spring.

A team of QAA reviewers visited GCU and judged that it has effective arrangements for managing academic standards and enhancing the student learning experience.

The review identified a number of examples of positive practice. These include the successful approach to widening participation and helping students from a wide variety of backgrounds make a successful transition to the University; the clear focus on employability and strong links with business and industry which ensure that students engage with employability skills and career-related opportunities; and the internationalisation of the student experience through opportunities to study abroad and, for those remaining in Scotland, drawing on projects and case studies with an international focus.

The review also highlighted the reflection of the University's Commitment to the Common Good in its culture and engagement with the wider community.

Glasgow Caledonian University Foundation

The Glasgow Caledonian University Foundation supports the University’s mission as a University for the Common Good by working with philanthropists and donors to promote access to education and deliver research, knowledge and social innovation that generates real and lasting impact in the communities we serve.

At GCU, we have a particular focus on employability, leadership and a tradition of widening access for talented individuals regardless of their backgrounds. We recognise philanthropic and charitable giving as enablers for change.

The Glasgow Caledonian University Foundation will be able to support over 200 talented young people through widening access scholarships and mobility awards which cultivate their ambitions thanks to a generous donation of £500,000 over the next ten years from Sir Alex Ferguson CBE.

The funding will be used to support selected undergraduates who join GCU via one of our outreach programmes such as the Caledonian Club, GCU’s flagship outreach initiative to raise educational and social aspiration. Mobility scholarships will also be available to help students to undertake study enhancing opportunities in the UK and internationally.