University admission thresholds should be lowered for students from the most deprived backgrounds, a new report has suggested.

The introduction of "access thresholds" is one of 34 recommendations set out by the Commission on Widening Access.

The commission was set up by the First Minister in 2014 to advise on how to get more students from deprived backgrounds into higher education.

Its "blueprint for fairness" also recommends a series of targets should be set to ensure that, by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived areas make up 20% of higher education entrants.

A Commissioner for Fair Access should also be appointed to "drive the agenda across the country", the commission says.

The report was welcomed by the Scottish Government and unions representing students and university staff.

The Conservatives warned setting different minimum entrance requirements for deprived students would cause problems for institutions.

The commission's report states that in many cases entry requirements have risen "well beyond what is required to succeed in degree-level study" while there is evidence the "school attainment of disadvantaged learners often does not reflect their full potential".

It recommends that "by 2019 all universities should set access thresholds for all degree programmes against which learners from the most deprived backgrounds should be assessed".

"These access thresholds should be separate to standard entrance requirements and set as ambitiously as possible, at a level which accurately reflects the minimum academic standard and subject knowledge necessary to successfully complete a degree programme," the report states.

The commission was chaired by Dame Ruth Silver, who said "Scotland has a moral, social and economic duty to tackle an inequality".

Education Secretary Angela Constance described its recommendations as "bold and thoughtful" as she said the Government accepted its recommended targets.

"Careful consideration is needed on the detail of the commission's other recommendations and I will work closely with key stakeholders on how best to take this work forward," she said.

Vonnie Sandlan, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said: "By setting ambitious targets, backed up by clear recommendations, this report ensures that we know what needs to be done, and who needs to take action."

The University and College Union said it "warmly welcomed today's publication".

Tory young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "This is a very thoughtful but, at times, controversial report since it is recommending that universities will be required to set minimum entrance requirements which are separate from standard entrance requirements.

"This is bound to lead to difficulties for universities and it will certainly put added pressure on higher education funding since more places will have to be made available if no student is to be squeezed out."

Scottish Labour's Iain Gray said: "These are welcome initiatives as anything that helps to close the gap between the richest and the rest in our education system should be encouraged.

"The SNP cannot deny their record. The reality is that spending on education and training has been cut by 10% by the SNP Government since 2007.

"Faced with a choice of using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education and the future of our economy or carrying on with the SNP's cuts to education, Labour would use the powers."

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: "We know that the attainment gap between the richest and poorest children has grown under the SNP.

"We know that investment in the earliest years is proven to make a fundamental difference when it comes to improving a child's life chances. That is why we need to focus our efforts on making a transformational change in early learning."