SCOTTISH universities have seen a sharp rise in the number of graduates starting their own businesses, according to new figures.

The number of new graduate start-ups rose by 20% between 2011/12 and 2012/13, bringing the total number of active firms to 431.

The rise follows initiatives run by universities and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to make courses more relevant to the economy.

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Institutions have also worked on the development of entrepreneurial skills among their students.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, welcomed the trend, highlighted by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

He said: "This is indicative of the culture change taking place in Scotland's higher education sector.

"There has been a real growth in projects and initiatives linked to enterprise and entrepreneurship to encourage students to think about self-employment and support them towards that end."

Robert Foster, vice-president of student body NUS Scotland, added: "At a time of high youth unemployment and increasing competition for jobs it's not surprising graduates are looking to start-ups.

"The Scottish Government has a role to play in providing loans or grants for young entrepreneurs."