SCOTLAND needs more universities to help raise the expectations of young people battling challenging backgrounds, one of the UK's top lawyers has claimed.

Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini QC, who will be appointed chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) tomorrow, said she was in favour of more colleges achieving university status to increase access to higher education.

The Govan-born lawyer said she was proud to be representing a university which was contributing to this ethos and had a "tremendous employability" record.

While acknowledging an increase in university students would put more pressure on the Scottish Government to sustain the provision of fees, she said it was crucial for funds to be safeguarded because universities and colleges were the "powerhouses" of the economy.

She said: "I'm not of the school of thought that there should be fewer universities. It's a recognition of the quality of the work and the nature and the standard of the work.

"There should be more universities, we should have more of our children going. I think that the more of our population that we can educate at a higher level the better for everyone.

"Very few of us when we are born have the potential to go to university.

"It's about how you are nurtured, it's about the opportunities in education, and what we really have to do is make those opportunities as wide as possible."

First Minister Alex Salmond has said the "rocks would melt in the sun" before he would contemplate introducing tuition fees. However, an increase in universities would increase pressure on finances.

Ms Angiolini is currently principal of Saint Hugh's College, Oxford, where she developed of code of governance for higher education. She is also a visiting professor in law at Strathclyde University and developed a new college to improve the skills of prosecutors.

As chancellor of UWS, which was created in 2008 after a series of mergers, she will represent the institution at the highest level and will have powers to award academic qualifications.