SCOTLAND'S oldest university has stressed the importance of autonomy to its success after a new report showed it contributes £484 million a year to the economy.

An independent study on St Andrews University, in Fife, shows it has increased its economic impact by £179m a year since 2008/09.

For every £1 of public teaching and research grant invested in St Andrews, the university returns £12.10 to the Scottish economy, the report by BiGGAR Economics said. The findings come at a time when Scottish universities are fearful of attempts by the Government to exert more control through the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill.

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The Royal Society of Edinburgh said the bill ignored the fundamental right of universities to be autonomous.

Alan Simpson, who leads the body that represents the chairs of university courts, said the legislation would pave the way for the greatest political influence over higher education for over a century.