Tavish Scott: Graduation sparks degree of pride

Edinburgh University students have been celebrating their graduations this week. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Edinburgh University students have been celebrating their graduations this week. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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AFTER four years of dedication, the day has dawned. My daughter graduates this week in Edinburgh University’s McEwan Hall. She follows her aunt and grandmother out of academic life into the world having completed an arts degree in history and politics.

She very wisely spent four years hiding any link to her father and therefore debated the great issues of the day without any preconceptions amongst fellow undergraduates. Work is lined up in the big smoke. She has the itchy feet of the family and will travel given half a chance. A cousin in New York has offered a bolt-hole in Brooklyn so London may not be home for long.

Sitting amongst hundreds of proud parents allows for an hour of reflection on the experiences of encouraging the oldest of the Scott offspring. It is a time to celebrate her achievements and to speculate on what the future holds for this generation of young Scots.

The common preoccupation of parents at graduation ceremonies is about work. Thankfully the UK does not have Spanish levels of youth unemployment. In addition, figures published recently give an upbeat picture of graduate employment possibilities and salary levels. This generation is mobile. Some will stay in Scotland, but many will travel and work abroad before putting down roots, or returning to somewhere near home.

But the ability to get a job plays on the mind of all graduates. It was one of the reasons why Napier College, or Edinburgh Napier University – to give it the new, correct title – is so successful. When I went there in 1984, Napier’s record of placing students into work was second to none across Scottish higher education. The Napier business degrees were notably successful. One reason was a sandwich degree, which included a year in industry. That helped a student’s attractiveness to employers. There is still a strong case for such an approach.

Napier, thanks to principal Joan Stringer, who retires this summer, has an international outlook with campuses and graduations in the Far East. Last week, she launched a scholarship to encourage students from a poorer backgrounds to travel across the world to see, learn and experience. That is a programme that will allow many Scots to benefit. She will be a hard act to follow.

Graduation ceremonies occasionally are given a little stardust. Universities just love anointing a son or daughter of Scotland, or of international note, or of great distinction in a chosen field. Honorary degrees are bestowed upon the great and the good amongst much fanfare and flashing of cameras. Today, the National Museums Scotland boss Gordon Rintoul is recognised by Edinburgh University. They have won this summer’s most famous figures league by honouring Bill Clinton. Golfing pals tell me he also took in a round on the old course at St Andrews but I haven’t yet heard if he played 18 holes at Muirfield. I wonder why not?

• Tavish Scott is Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland