Page last updated at 23:21 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 00:21 UK

'Huge' education postcode lottery

UCU Scotland called for greater investment to help students

A huge education "postcode lottery" remains between Scotland's wealthiest and poorest areas despite investment aimed at closing it, a report has said.

The University and College Union (UCU) ranked every parliamentary constituency in the UK by the percentage of residents who have a degree.

Its authors said £100m had been spent in Scotland on trying to widen university participation since 2005.

But there remained large differences across the country.

The report found that the gap between richer and poorer areas was particularly stark between and within Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland's two largest cities.

For example, more than half of people - 53% - in the Glasgow North constituency have a degree and only 7% have no qualifications at all.

While Scotland is achieving reasonable levels of the population with degrees, it lags behind the rates achieved in England
Mary Senior
UCU Scotland

Glasgow North was ranked 17th overall out of the 628 constituencies which were studied, while Edinburgh North and Leith was 13th and East Dunbartonshire was placed 18th.

However, in the Glasgow East constituency more than a quarter of people (29%) have no qualifications, while just 16% have a degree.

Glasgow East was ranked 584th for the percentage of people with a degree, and a low 623rd for the percentage of residents with qualifications.

In Glasgow North East, where a by-election will be held next month, the rates were only marginally better, with 25% of people having no qualifications, and only 23% having a degree.

Edinburgh East was ranked lowest of that city's five constituencies, but was still placed a credible 88th in the overall table of the percentage of people with a degree.

The authors of the report said many of the constituencies with the lowest levels of educational achievement were traditional Labour seats in the larger towns and cities.

'Knowledge economy'

But constituencies in the Highlands and rural north east also featured among those with the lowest percentage of people who have a degree or better.

One was Banff and Buchan, the constituency of First Minister Alex Salmond, while another was Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, which is held by Liberal Democrat John Thurso.

Mary Senior, of UCU Scotland, said: "While Scotland is achieving reasonable levels of the population with degrees, it lags behind the rates achieved in England.

"However, our investment in higher education means we achieve well overall and do not have any constituencies in the bottom 20 for people with degrees. Investment must be increased if Scotland is to reach the levels of population with degrees that will allow the knowledge economy to rise out of the ashes of the recession.

"There is still more effort required on access to university, employment and better health opportunities to break down the divide within, and between, our great cities and address the lack of people with degrees in our vast rural areas in the Highlands."

UCU is the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK.

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