This beacon of learning trains bright young minds, and opens the door to even more advancements.
In 1696, the Scottish Parliament passed a law making primary school education compulsory in each of the kingdom's parishes. This laid the foundations for an education system that opened up access to college and university to a wider population than could have previously pursued studies. These academic institutions experienced a golden age in the latter half of the 18th century. During a period of nearly seventy years, the colleges of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen were home to the research and teaching of thinkers such as Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, William Robertson, John Millar, Adam Ferguson, Colin Maclaurin, Matthew Stewart, Robert Simson, William Cullen, Joseph Black, James Watt, and James Hutton. Their work, widely disseminated through these universities, reached new audiences thanks to the rise of publishing houses and the emergence of clubs and societies where literary, philosophical, and scientific ideas were debated. In the 19th century, higher education became more accessible : in the 1860s, one in five students came from a working-class background, and one in three students in Aberdeen was eligible for a study grant. In 1855, the literacy rate of Scottish women surpassed that of English men.