Scotland's international education strategy

Scotland’s International Education Strategy sets out a framework to cement Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in education, research and knowledge exchange, working with universities and colleges to attract students and staff from outside the UK.

International Education and Economic Growth: Maximising exports

Our excellent post-16 education sector also plays a vital role in strengthening Scotland’s international reputation and economy.

As an outward looking nation that values our international education capabilities and export potential, we will work with universities and colleges, to maximise our social, educational, and economic contribution globally.

International students, staff and researchers have an overwhelmingly positive impact on Scotland’s economy and society. They add to the diversity of our student population and play a vital role in making Scotland an outward-looking country, enhancing its skills and research base, contributing to our economy, and building education and research connections globally.

The net contribution in 2021-22 of international students in Scotland to the UK economy was estimated to be £4.21 billion. Those that choose to stay can contribute valuable skills to our workforce and support the sustainable growth of our economy. Our Talent Attraction programme will enable employers to recruit from a more diverse pool of labour, bringing extensive benefits to their organisation including greater innovation, new ideas and addressing current or emerging skills needs.

Additionally, through our network of international offices, partners such as our Trade and Investment Envoys, GlobalScots[21], and the global field team of Scottish Development International (SDI), the international trade and investment arm of Scottish Enterprise, we can further broaden our international education profile and promote what Scotland has to offer in even more countries, supporting actions within NSET and attracting inward global investment.

This helps us maintain a consistent approach for Scotland to promote and export our international education offer through Connected Scotland - working together to promote Scotland as a destination to study, live and work. We will look to maximise those benefits through actions in NSET and our Scottish Connections Framework.

2.1 We will utilise our international offices and Ministerial visits to actively promote Scotland’s world class transnational education (TNE) and unlock new, innovative opportunities for our universities and colleges in new and emerging markets.

2.2 We will continue to work collaboratively to promote our universities and colleges and their TNE offer globally, including with the UKGOV and the British Council in meetings with other countries.

Whilst welcoming students from across the globe to Scotland is important, Scottish universities and colleges can provide global education and training opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented groups through their TNE provision.

TNE is a key export activity with a major positive economic benefit to Scotland. Total UK revenue from education related exports and TNE activity was estimated to be £25.6 billion in 2020[22].

Our world-class universities and colleges are actively growing their global provision of TNE, providing Scottish qualifications outside of Scotland through establishing strategic partnerships with overseas institutions and utilising a range of TNE delivery models. This includes delivering online courses and establishing campuses with international partners.

Many of Scotland’s universities and colleges have students studying through TNE activities, with over 60% of Scottish providers reporting more than 1000 TNE students each. Overall Scottish providers reported 45,115 students in TNE at multiple global locations, which accounts for 8.5% of the total reported by UK providers. Asia continued to report the largest proportion of Scottish providers’ TNE students (41.9%) in 2021−22, followed by the Middle East (19.8%), the European Union (13.0%), Africa (10.8%), North America (8.9%), non-EU Europe (3.5%), Australasia (1.2%) and South America (0.8%).[23]

The photo shows Edinburgh College lecturers in China delivering a Business English course to students studying at Hainan University

In March 2023, six Edinburgh College lecturers travelled to China to deliver an intensive Business English course to students studying at Hainan University’s College of International Studies.

Our International Network offices are well-placed to develop networks and frameworks to help ensure that SG can work with colleges and universities promoting education, knowledge exchange, research, and TNE so global opportunities can be identified and maximised. As part of this, the Scottish Government is committed to working with partners to help overcome barriers to developing TNE relationships with target countries. This will include establishing a mechanism for Scottish institutions to raise issues with us.

Our international offices, the British Council and our Trade and Investment envoy for Education working with the UK Government’s International Education Champion will continue to promote and support the development of partnerships between Scotland and other countries.

Our Global Affairs Framework[24] provides further opportunities to strengthen our international university and college relationships. The SG and SDI’s International Network of offices promotes Scotland’s global profile and engages extensively with educational institutions, businesses, and other key stakeholders within education, both in Scotland and abroad.

The SG currently has nine offices – in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, London, Ottawa, Paris, and Washington DC who work internationally throughout the year to bring education and business leaders together.

This image shows students in Japan undertaking a practical element of their English and Airline Operations course

In April 2023, Edinburgh College welcomed students from the Immaculate Heart College in Kagoshima, Japan, they completed a bespoke English and Airline Operations course – specifically designed to support their aspirations of forging careers in the airline industry after graduating.

In partnership with Universities Scotland, Colleges Scotland, and Connected Scotland, the network plays a key role in promoting Scotland’s world leading international education and research offer through media activity and events. In addition, the network supports activity on the ground in host countries to link up opportunities on exchange, research, and TNE programmes.

50 Years at HKU Space

Edinburgh Napier University has recently celebrated an enduring transnational education (TNE) partnership with Hong Kong-based HKU SPACE which began over 50 years ago. The two institutions began working together in the early 1970s, thanks to relationships forged in Hong Kong by ENU’s first Principal, Dr Joseph Dunning. The first certificates in Medical Laboratory Technology were awarded in 1973, as part of a collaboration between what were then Napier Technical College and the Department of Extra Mural Studies of Hong Kong University. The course was designed to address a specific shortage of expertise in the city at the time. Since then, around 8,000 students have graduated, with 12 collaborative degree programmes on offer today in subject areas such as biological sciences, social sciences, mass communications, accounting and finance, and tourism and business. The partnership with HKU SPACE contributes to a wide range of TNE degree programmes offered by ENU. During the last academic year, they saw more than a thousand students graduate in numerous locations, including Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.

2.3 Building on the Scottish Government’s International Strategy, we will work with our universities to explore how best to engage their alumni communities and seek opportunities to connect these networks and with the wider Scottish diaspora around the world.

Through our Scottish Connections framework and our Ministers travelling internationally, where programme and resources allow, we will engage with Scottish alumni around the world to support and expand this global community. GlobalScots continue to engage and mentor the alumni community and build education, trade, and investment opportunities, thereby strengthening the diversity and reach of the group. These connections raise Scotland’s profile and reputation and encourage individuals and companies to visit, study, live, work, and do business in Scotland. We will work together with our universities and colleges, where possible, to plan specific, timed and mutually beneficial international engagement.

This will include capitalising on the new opportunities which emerge from our association to the Horizon Europe and Copernicus programmes and strengthening links with Scotland’s top collaborator countries – to build new networks, develop new knowledge and expertise and drive economic impact.



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