STUDENTS from Scottish universities are more likely to get a graduate level job when they leave than their counterparts across the UK, figures show.

Nearly 70 per cent of graduates from higher education institutions north of the Border found professional employment shortly after leaving university in 2012/13, com­pared to an average of 65 per cent for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Overall, 91 per cent of graduates from Scottish institutions went into employment, further study or a combination of the two, the highest figure for all UK administrations.

Graduates from Scottish universities also enjoy the highest average starting salaries in the UK at £22,500, against £21,000 elsewhere.

And only six per cent of graduates from Scotland's universities were unemployed six months after leaving compared to a UK average of eight per cent.

The figures support the sector's view a university education is still the best way to secure a higher paid job despite recent concern the UK is producing too many graduates.

Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "These figures show graduates from Scotland's world class universities are leading the way with more going into employment or further study than in any other part of the UK.

"They also demonstrate our continued investment in graduates and in the higher education sector in Scotland is paying dividends.

"We are also continuing to support good quality graduate placement programmes in Scotland that provide graduates with the experience employers are looking for."

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, also stressed the importance now placed on making graduates employable.

He said: "Scotland's universities have made employability a real priority, with significant amounts of time and energy going on employability strategies, attention paid to the development of well-rounded skill sets in our students and working closely with employers in the design and delivery of courses and the creation of work placements.

"We are very proud of our record on employability and pleased that our graduates can finish their studies confident they have the best prospects in the UK."

Gordon Maloney, president of student body NUS Scotland, welcomed the drop in graduate unemployment in Scotland.

He said: "These figures again demonstrate the clear value of higher education and the importance of getting a degree during tough economic times.

"Graduate unemployment levels in Scotland, although slightly better than that in the rest of the UK, still represent a waste of talent.

"However, this is not because there are too many graduates, but too few jobs. Graduates remain in a better position to find jobs than those who are unable to attend higher education, which is why it is so important universities continue to do everything possible to improve access to higher education."