The government has failed to take account of the barriers that young people with additional support needs and those leaving care face when trying to enter higher education, the Scottish Children's Services Coalition has said.
In an open letter to education secretary Michael Russell, the group said the omission of those with additional support needs from widening access legislation in the post-16 bill was a "missed opportunity to effectively shape future access to further and higher education in Scotland" for all young people.
While the conditions imposed by the bill for access to universities for those from the most deprived 20 per cent of the population was welcome, its focus solely on that group "failed to recognise many individuals who face serious barriers in accessing education", the letter stated.
Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland and one of the signatories, told TESS: "Any motion to widen access to education must also recognise and support those young people who face barriers to their education because of disability, or multiple support needs or are leaving care."
The government should now make provisions at the next stage of the bill to support these young people, she said.
A government spokesman said access to university should be based on ability to learn, not pay, and that its legislation would "ensure no one is disadvantaged by their background".
"Universities consider a range of needs, backgrounds and circumstances in their admission and access policies, and equalities legislation is in place to prevent discrimination on grounds of disability," he said.