Universities will be given £10 million next year to fund an extra 2000 places for students, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The Scottish Funding Council cash will pay for 1000 places for students moving from college to university in 2013/14.

It will also fund 700 places on widening access schemes for students from more deprived backgrounds and 300 Skills for Growth places targeting subjects in key industries such as life sciences and energy.

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Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "Scotland already has a record number of people at university.

"We have abolished tuition fees to ensure education remains free and now also offer the best financial support package for students in the whole of the UK.

"To further widen access, we will now help more than 2000 extra young people go to university.

"This will mean more young Scots, including those from our most deprived communities, will reap the benefits of a university education.

"This funding will help more college students see their learning count towards a university degree and ensure young people from deprived areas who show potential get the support and education they need to realise that potential."

The plan for extra places, revealed by The Herald in October, was welcomed by Universities Scotland, which represents higher education institutions.

Convener Professor Pete Downes, who is also principal of Dundee University, said: "The extra places, announced today, are a very welcome means of alleviating some of the pressure on places and should give bright applicants from less traditional backgrounds and routes of entry the opportunity to demonstrate their potential to gain from study at university.

"The students who take up these additional places will have to demonstrate their academic ability and potential to succeed at university, just like every other applicant. No-one gets an easy pass. But these extra places should create opportunities for students who might otherwise have missed out."

It has been revealed that some universities had been recruiting tiny numbers of students from the poorest backgrounds.

St Andrews University recruited only 13 students from the most deprived backgrounds in Scotland in 2010/11.

The second-lowest proportion was at Aberdeen University, with 51, followed by Edinburgh University, with 91.