The new Scottish policy is centred around research investment, diversity, and TNE.

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Posted on February 8, 2024


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The first complete foreign education strategy from the Scottish government was announced recently, with intentions to promote colleges and universities abroad and hire more staff. 

The area wants to collaborate with its universities and colleges “to help diversify our international student population” while also ensuring that they can “maximize their contribution” to the region. This goal is outlined in the strategy, which was unveiled at Edinburgh Napier University on February 7. 

Graeme Dey, Scotland’s minister of Higher and Further Education, said that the eagerly expected paper “lays out our collective aim to create the conditions for our universities and colleges to continue to flourish.”

Dey stated, “Scotland already has more world-class universities per capita than any other country.”

The plan of action is organized around three goals. The government will use Brand Scotland to promote a “welcoming Scotland to prospective international students and staff” and will implement a “Scottish Education Exchange Test and Learn Project” before the end of the academic year in an effort to help diversify the region’s student population of foreign nationals. 

The Talent Attraction and Migration Service will run concurrently with this, offering information about Scotland to individuals considering a post-degree stay as well as general encouragement to more students to remain in Scotland in order to work in the “growth sectors” of the country. 

The report emphasizes Scotland’s standing as a “world leader in research and innovation” and as a “cultural and creative hub,” particularly in the areas of gaming, cinema, and television.

“We will keep working with Scotland’s universities and colleges in the upcoming months and years to support them in diversifying their population of international students, researchers, and staff members by enhancing our reputation as a world-leading safe and inclusive nation with progressive social policies,” Dey continued.

The strategy said that “We will use our international offices and program of Ministerial visits to actively promote and grow Scotland’s world class transnational education” in order to achieve the second aim, which is to maximize the region’s social, educational, and economic contribution on a worldwide scale. 

Scotland accounted for 8.4% of all TNE enrolments in the UK in 2021–2022, with 45,115 TNE students, according to HESA statistics.

“We will keep working… to market our universities’ TNE offerings internationally, working with organizations like the British Council and the UK government. Additionally, we will collaborate with our universities to engage alumni communities by expanding on our Scottish Connections Framework,” the policy stated.

Twenty-five percent of all students in Scotland are overseas students. According to the strategy, more than 83,000 students from more than 180 countries were enrolled in schools in 2022–2023.

82,440 foreign students were admitted to Scottish universities in the preceding academic year, according to HESA statistics. The number of non-EU students increased to 65,300 from 47,630, while the number of EU students decreased to 17,140 from 20,550 in 2020–21.

The total number of foreign undergraduate students decreased to 31,650 in the academic year 2021–2022, however the number of international postgraduate students rose to 50,785 from 35,940 in the same year.

According to a survey by Universities UK overseas on the economic impact of overseas students in the UK, the number of these students increased Scotland’s GDP by £4.75 billion in 2021–2022.

The government established the Scottish Connections Framework in 2023 as a means of improving communication with the diaspora, or “family and friends of Scotland globally.” 

The government states that it would “maintain and strengthen” domestic and international relationships with ongoing investment in core university research and information exchange as part of the final major aim, which focuses on research capacities.

It went on, “Scotland’s research sector must be able to manage the associated risks, which are growing in complexity and dynamic as these international collaborations are pursued.”

By identifying “areas where further effort is required to amplify Scotland’s access to the program,” the strategy also aims to maximize participation in the Horizon Europe program, which the UK recently rejoined for the first time since Brexit.