University principals in Scotland have signed up to an agreement to widen access to applicants from deprived backgrounds.
All of Scotland's 19 universities have committed to opening up more opportunities to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and improve retention rates among these groups.
The principals made the commitment through a joint Universities Scotland statement, as they published their separate outcome agreements for the academic year 2012-13 onwards.
Common features of the outcome agreements, negotiated between institutions and the Scottish Funding Council, are quantifiable and time-limited targets to improve access and retention, implementation or expansion of contextual admissions to give greater recognition to a candidate's circumstances and a commitment to increase the number of routes between college and university.
Professor Pete Downes, convener of Universities Scotland, said: "Universities have committed to a considerable range of actions and targets on access in their outcome agreements, and all principals have given a firm commitment to deliver in their statement issued today.
"Widening access is a complex problem and its root causes go right back to the early years. There are actions universities can take to bring about change in the short term and the sector shares the conviction to do that.
"It will take a much longer, combined effort on the part of government, schools, colleges and universities to bring about a lasting step-change in widening access in Scotland."