Alex Salmond’s claim that St Andrews University fails to recruit students from across the social spectrum has been described as “mostly blethers” by the academic institution.
Scotland’s oldest university was forced to defend its recruitment record after being criticised by the former First Minister on the BBC Question Time programme.
Appearing on the discussion programme chaired by David Dimbleby, Mr Salmond reacted to a contribution from a member of the audience, whose father was an admissions tutor at St Peters College, Oxford.
The audience member said his father complained about quota systems for ethnic minority students saying less academically able individuals won places as a result of their backgrounds.
Mr Salmond, who studied Economics and Medieval History at St Andrews, responded by comparing his alma mater with Glasgow University.
“I have interest in both. I am a doctor of the University of Glasgow, I was a student at St Andrews,” Mr Salmond said.
“They are both highly rated internationally orientated universities but Glasgow has a huge social mix in its student population, St Andrews doesn’t.
“The idea you maintain excellence by having a fairly exclusive social mix is entirely wrong headed, it’s entirely mistaken.
“These are two examples of two outstanding universities, but one of which I think fulfils its duty to the population as a whole by educating people across the social spectrum and the other I am afraid, does not.”
A spokesman for St Andrews University said “big progress” had been made in attracting students from a diverse range of backgrounds by lowered entry requirements, mentoring schemes and scholarships.
A spokesman for St Andrews said: “We were glad to see that in the true style of a good St Andrews debater Mr Salmond was able to give the impression he actually knew what he was talking about, even if it was mostly blethers.
“He’s out of touch with present day St Andrews. The student body has never been more socially and internationally diverse, we’ve made big progress in recent years and are one of the few Scottish universities to be ahead of the curve in meeting the SNP Government’s ambitious targets on widening access to our universities. Over a third of all the Scots who started here this year came from an access background.
“We lower our entry requirements for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, use tailored support programmes and first-year mentoring schemes and offer a very broad range of bursary and scholarship assistance.
“Alex doesn’t have to take our word for it though, we hope he’ll come back to find out for himself.”