More people from Cornwall than ever before are choosing a university-level education – and the numbers are growing faster than any English region.
Official figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the number of people from Cornwall participating in higher education increased by 2,325 to 17,500 between 2004 and 2011 – up 15.3 per cent.
This is more than twice the South West average of 6.2 per cent, and compares to an average increase of 8.8 per cent across all English regions in the same period.
The increase coincides with a £316 million investment in higher education in Cornwall over the last ten years through the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative, a partnership of six universities and colleges.
The news was welcomed by Gaynor Coley, a director at the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
"What these figures suggest is that the huge investment in university-level education in Cornwall has helped raise awareness and aspiration among our young people, and that was always one of the goals.
"We are also seeing many more Cornish people choosing to study in Cornwall, and that's good news for our skills base and ultimately the local economy," said Mrs Coley, who is LEP employment and skills board chairman.
CUC director Dr Sue Brownlow said the last ten years had witnessed a cultural shift in higher education, which had benefited the whole of the county.
"More than a third of our graduates who go on into work find jobs in Cornwall and this gives a big boost to the local economy."
But she added that there was still much to do. "One of our key areas of focus for the next 12 months is to make sure local businesses and entrepreneurs are aware of the range of expertise and resources available to them on their doorstep through the CUC partner institutions, and really understand how working with universities and colleges can benefit their business."
Councillor Neil Burden, Cornwall Council's cabinet member for children's services, which includes responsibility for education and schools, said it was fantastic that young people were seizing the opportunity to go into higher education.
"These latest statistics are most heartening and is tangible evidence of the recent successes of our young people and the high standards delivered by all our schools," he said.
The CUC initiative has received European investment as well as backing from the South West Regional Development Agency, Cornwall Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Partners include the University of Exeter, Plymouth University, Cornwall College, and Truro and Penwith College.