By Bob Duncan
Scotland has moved to the head of the world rankings for top flight universities, with no other country having so many universities per capita in the top 100, according to an international report published today.
The QS university rankings for 2012 show Scotland is academically punching well above its weight with the University of Edinburgh in 21st position, the University of Glasgow in 56th spot and the University of St Andrews in 93rd place.
Published annually since 2004, QS World University Rankings is the most trusted university ranking in the world. It is a league table which ranks the world’s top universities according to a range of indicators such as academic reputation, employability of graduates, size and research intensity and reputation.
In this year's rankings, Scotland has the lowest number of people for each top 100 university at 1.75 million, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, Singapore, Denmark and Australia respectively.
The rest of the UK (excluding Scotland) had a score of 3.85 million, representing less than half the number of top ranked universities per capita achieved by Scotland.
The SNP government has welcomed Scotland’s on-going academic success story with three universities in the world’s top 100 universities, which is proportionately more than any other country in the world.
Joan McAlpine MSP, member of the Education and Culture Committee at the Scottish Parliament, said that this achievement was backed up by Scotland’s commitment to free student tuition and investment in higher education.
She said: “Scotland has a proud tradition of higher education and today’s university rankings show we’re still punching above our weight on the world stage.
“It is a credit to The Scottish Government’s cast iron commitment to the highest standards and fairest possible access to higher education that Scotland leads the world in terms of Universities.”
This academic year, the number of Scottish Students enrolled at Scotland's universities, as well as the overall number of students, has risen significantly. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) figures show that Scotland - where university tuition is free - is the only part of the UK which has seen a rise in university and college admissions.
Conversely, the number of students attending Universities in England & Wales has fallen by over 25,000 or 8%. This is generally reported to have been caused by the increased level of fees this year, with most institutions charging students the legal maximum of £9,000 per annum.
Ms MacAlpine said: “In Scotland we are committed to delivering first class higher education based on the ability to learn – not the ability to pay.
“That is a principle which we firmly committed itself to, which is why we abolished back-door tuition fees in Scotland when we came to power in 2007.
“Young Scots and their families can be rest assured that the SNP will never introduce tuition fees for the people of Scotland. Labour must now commit themselves to free university tuition or face the charge that they are no better than the Tories and Lib Dems on this issue.
“A successful economy is a well-educated economy. It is in all our interests to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to access higher education, which is what makes the actions of successive UK Governments an absolute tragedy.”