NORTH or south, urban or rural, coastal or inland, geography is playing an increasingly important part in Scottish education and society.

These divisions affect all aspects of a person’s life: the type of school they go to, the friends they make, the experiences they gain, the workplace opportunities they have access to, even the opinions they hold.

In the modern economy it is often those who are most mobile who are most likely to find success.

Moving away to university can be an important first step and an ‘escalator’ for social mobility. But as our research shows, access to university too is shaped by place.

While it is perhaps understandable that Scottish students have become more likely to stay within the country since the introduction of £9,000 fees in England, it is less clear why most Scottish students travel only a short distance to go to university.

These students are more likely to be from state schools too, with those from better-off backgrounds more likely to move big distances to go to university.

A variety of factors, including financial and cultural barriers each play a part in decisions to stay at home or move away. This poses complex questions about the relationships between geography and social mobility. But at the root of the issue is the uneven spread of top class universities across Scotland.

Depending on where you were born, your access to the best universities can be severely limited without travelling significant distances.

Those from all backgrounds should be encouraged and helped to consider travelling across the country to the best university for their needs, but it is also important for those who wish to - or indeed need to - stay at home that there are excellent local options for everyone.

In the short term, universities need to do more, through outreach and opening up beyond open days to expand their horizons to attract young people from all backgrounds and geographical locations.

The most selective universities should give local working class students a grade break and universities with high numbers of ‘commuter’ students should also consider their needs more strongly.

Sir Peter Lampl is founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust