Only one in three of the would-be students from poor families offered a place at St Andrews University takes it up, it has emerged.
The university divulged the figure after coming under attack from the National Union of Students (NUS) for taking on only 13 undergraduates from the most deprived parts of Scotland in 2010-11. Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities were also near the bottom of the list with 51 and 91 respectively.
By contrast, Dundee University had 195 students resident in areas in the bottom 20% of the Scottish index of multiple deprivations and city neighbour Abertay University had 257.
A St Andrews spokesman said: ”Like other universities, we are conducting a huge amount of outreach work, a range of innovative programmes and running summer schools to encourage bright young people from deprived areas to choose a university education. For as long as we do that in isolation however, our progress will be limited.
”If this challenge continues to be laid solely at the door of universities, it will never be properly met. It requires a concerted national effort on health, employment, housing and a culture of attainment at all levels of Scottish education to equip young people with the grades they need to gain entry and to succeed at university.”
The spokesman insisted: ”We cannot and will not compromise our academic standards and we agree with the NUS that places should go to those with the most talent and potential.
”For every three offers St Andrews makes to students from deprived backgrounds in Scotland however, only one accepts, despite significant and increasing levels of scholarship support. ”Proportionately, we make more offers to students from deprived backgrounds than any other group.”
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said universities are working to attract more students from poor households. Meanwhile, Patrick O’Hare, president of St Andrews Students Association, said he is in favour of financial penalties for universities that fail to meet targets for recruiting poor students.
A spokesman for Abertay University said: ”It’s no surprise that we should have one of the highest proportions of students from the most deprived areas in Scotland — widening access has been part of our DNA ever since we were founded in 1888 as the Dundee Technical Institute.”
Over at Dundee University, a spokesman said: ”We devote significant resources to widening access and encouraging potential students from all backgrounds to attend university.”