Edinburgh tops list of best-educated cities

Edinburgh is now among the frontline of international cities for 'attracting academic talent'. Picture: Sean Bell
Edinburgh is now among the frontline of international cities for 'attracting academic talent'. Picture: Sean Bell
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EDINBURGH is officially Scotland’s best-educated city, with more than two-fifths of residents holding a university ­degree, according to the latest census figures.

But an east-west split is emerging across the country, with a third holding no qualifications at all in Glasgow.

The population of Edinburgh residents with a university ­degree is now approaching half (41.4 per cent), far ahead of anywhere else in Scotland.

The capital is now among the frontline of international cities like Barcelona, Copenhagen and Vancouver which “attracts talent”, one academic expert said yesterday.

But across Scotland about a quarter of working age Scots have no qualifications, with the number climbing to a third in large parts of the west of ­Scotland.

This includes Glasgow, where 32 per cent passed no exams, as well as East Ayrshire (34.1 per cent), North Lanarkshire (33 per cent) and West Dunbartonshire (32.8 per cent). Edinburgh is about half this level.

The focus on higher education – with four universities – along with the quality of life, continuing strength of the ­financial sector and the presence of the devolved Scottish Parliament have all helped the capital flourish.

Graham Birse, a former Chamber of Commerce chief in the capital and director of Edinburgh Napier University’s Edinburgh Institute of Leadership Management Practice, said the city now has the highest proportion of degree-educated workers outside London.

“The quality of life and opportunity combine so that the graduates, whether they’re from the UK or international, are keen to find a home here and stay if they can,” he added.

“What that does is enrich the quality of the workforce and high value-added jobs in the Scottish economy. In the case of Edinburgh, financial services is still strong, despite what’s happened in banking, and you could argue tourism and public sector and government are part of that – a richness and diversity in the economy.

“Along with all the other factors like quality of life, they make Edinburgh a city like Vancouver, like Copenhagen, like Barcelona and maybe even Dublin – cities that attract talent as desirable places to be and subsequently enrich their economy.”

The percentage of university graduates in Edinburgh is some way ahead of East Renfrewshire which is next on the list with 35.2 per cent of residents holding a degree or equivalent. East Dunbartonshire (34.8 per cent), Stirling (33.3 per cent) and Aberdeen (33.2 per cent) make up the top five. The average across Scotland is just over a quarter of people (26.1 per cent) with degrees and is slightly less (25.9 per cent) in Glasgow.

SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central Marco Biagi said it is “fantastic news” for the city.

“Our universities make a vital contribution to Scotland’s economy and produce highly-skilled graduates with the best employment prospects in the UK,” he said.

Lothians MSP, Sarah Boyack, said: “Edinburgh residents can take great pride in the reputation of our educational ­institutions.

“We have a wonderful city and it’s no surprise that Edinburgh attracts some of Britain’s and the world’s brightest.”

See the full list of figures here