SCOTLAND is the most highly educated country in the EU, but new figures show Scots are the least educated people in the nation, with Africans topping the league table.

UK statistics issued last month revealed that two-fifths of those living in Scotland had gone to college or university, putting it up with Canada and Russia on international league tables.

But new census figures show only 22 per cent of white people born in Scotland have a degree, fewer than the figure for any other ethnic group living in the country.

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The figure for ethnic Scots remains high by international standards, but is dwarfed by the attainment levels of migrants.

Some 55 per cent of those listed as Africans in Scotland had a degree or better qualification, while for "other whites" the figure was 50 per cent. Scotland in total has 12,000 African graduates and 71,000 "other white" ones.

Brian Boyd, emeritus professor of education at Strathclyde University, said this showed Scotland's universities attracted students from such backgrounds - while Scotland successfully lures graduate migrants. Mr Boyd said: "Scotland has a good track record of attracting those who want to be educated here - and those who want to use the education they have here.

"Our universities are a huge draw for students from all over the world. The challenge now must be to make sure we are not wasting the talents of young Scots, including those from the most deprived backgrounds."

Mass migration from central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has helped boost Scotland's educational status.

This has also proved true for much of the rest of the United Kingdom, with an recent study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development finding nearly half of those moving to Britain had tertiary education - a college or university qualification.

Only Canada attracted a higher proportion of educated immigrants, the club of developed economies found.

Academics, however, have long argued educated people tend to have more aspirations and more mobile skills and so are more likely to migrate. This, of course, runs counter to those arguing migrants are drawn to the UK by low-skilled jobs or the prospects of benefits.

University College London last year revealed that, across the UK, immigrants from Europe were 45 per cent less likely to be on welfare than those born in Britain.

Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie said: "These figures are more evidence of the contribution immigrants make to our society. I know many teachers in Glasgow who talk of the sheer appetite for learning they see in migrant children who perhaps may not have had the same opportunities where they came from.

"I am sure this enthusiasm is really positive for the wider school community."

The census figures in total show 1.1 million people living in Scotland were educated to university degree level - 25 per cent of the 4.4m aged 16 or over in the country. However, such individuals were outnumbered by the 1.2m who have no qualifications at all.

The numbers show efforts to expand education and training in recent years have had a huge impact. Only eight per cent of people aged 16 to 34 have no qualifications. That figure shoots up to 60 per cent for those over 65. The figure for those aged 25 to 34 who have a degree or a higher qualification is 39 per cent, more than double the figure for those aged 65 and over.

The census found 27 per cent of women in Scotland had graduated from a university, exactly the same proportion as had no level of educational attainment. The figures for men were 25 and 26 per cent respectively.