Calls have been made for a commission which is aiming to get more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into university to look at education on every level.
The Scottish Government wants to move towards 20% of university entrants coming from the most disadvantaged 20% of society.
It has appointed Lanarkshire-born Dame Ruth Silver to chair a commission on widening access announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in November.
Dame Ruth has previously headed the UK Learning and Skills Improvement Service, served as an adviser to the Education Select Committee on further education in the House of Commons and co-chaired the UK Skills Commission.
Her appointment was welcomed by Labour and higher education body Universities Scotland, but both called for the membership and remit of the commission to take a broad approach to tackling the problem.
Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said: “The appointment of Ruth Silver looks like a good one. Especially welcome is that she has experience in further education.
“Now we need to see a commission with experience of schools and early-years education as well as universities.
“We will not change our unacceptably low participation by students from poorer families in higher education unless we look at what needs to be done in school and pre-school.
“Admission policies, student support and partnerships between universities, colleges and schools all matter. Yet while only 220 young people from the poorest 20% of our communities have the qualifications to even consider university, we cannot turn this around.”
Professor Pete Downes, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “Dame Ruth’s extensive personal and professional experience will bring a wealth of understanding and knowledge to the appointment, in recognising that access to university is a shared challenge and there is a role for schools, colleges and local authorities to play in this as well as universities.
“We are all united in our determination to raise attainment and we hope that the membership of that commission will reflect the breadth of contributions to widening access.
“Every level in Scotland’s education sector has a shared responsibility and commitment if we are to make a significant difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged of society. ”
Education Secretary Angela Constance said: “We want every child – whatever their background – to have an equal chance of attending university.
“The Scottish Government is committed to education being based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay, and while we have come far, with record levels of students from less well-off areas entering higher education, we realise there is more to do.”
Dame Ruth said: “I welcome the opportunity to lead such an important piece of work.
“The commission begins and benefits from a great ambition with its clarity of task, timescale and intended outcome.
“More importantly, Scotland has a solid and creative foundation in widening access.
“This next phase, supported by the commission, is to find ways to go deeper and ensure all members of our community have every opportunity to succeed.”