The government has sanctioned one anomaly in its refusal to fund a fourth year at Scottish universities for non-Scottish students. But, asks Olga Wojtas, how different is higher education north of the border?
* In 1996-97 there were 239,305 students in Scottish higher education. Of these, 171,964 were studying at higher education institutions, and 67,341 were at further education colleges.
* 66 per cent of all students were on full-time courses: 128,998 at HEIs and ,999 students at FECs. Of the 82,308 part-time students, 52 per cent (42,966 students) were studying at HEIs.
* Of the 239,305 students in higher education, 46 per cent are on first-degree courses, 36 per cent on sub-degree courses and 17 per cent are postgraduates. Of the 156,997 full-time students, 53 per cent are female. For part-time students, 52 per cent are female.
* 4 per cent of students in higher education were from ethnic minorities compared with 2 per cent in further education colleges. In HEIs 3 per cent of UK students reported a disability.
* In 1996 more women (53 per cent) than men qualified from higher education.
* Almost 84 per cent of graduates and diplomats entered employment or further study in 1996. This proportion is higher for women (85 per cent) than for men (82 per cent). Of those who found permanent employment, 70 per cent stayed in Scotland.
* 15,584 academic staff were employed in higher education in 1996-97. Almost 36 per cent of staff are under 35 years old.
* In 1996-97, a total of 33,799 students at further education colleges attended full-time vocational further education courses, with a further 254,065 attending on a part-time basis.
* There were 5,331 full-time permanent academic members of staff at further education colleges during 1996-97. Of these, 2 per cent were under 30 years of age and 68 per cent were under 50 years of age.