Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, said: "It is a very recent tradition that 70 per cent of Scottish students do a four-year honours degree and it has not always been driven by the needs of the individual or the educational considerations. We have to get back strongly to the idea that the higher education system is there to serve the needs of students and society."
Mr Wilson this week stressed the need for access to a university education for large numbers of people previously excluded by cost and culture. The Government has already responded to the funding row by promising to levy tuition fees on Scottish students for a maximum three years to protect the uptake of honours degrees.
In a backhanded compliment, he stated: "The Tories were good at getting bodies through the doors but were not good at putting in money to finance it."