Scottish Connections Framework

This Framework sets out a cohesive and cross-cutting approach to diaspora engagement. It outlines a series of commitments and ambitions to strengthen and expand our relationships with, and between, Scotland’s international communities, and expand on existing work with our established networks.

Education and Alumni

Scotland has a world-renowned education system, top-class higher education institutions, and a reputation for producing creative thinkers. That’s why over 82,000 students from over 180 different countries chose to study in Scotland in 2021-22.[14]

We recognise the important contribution international students make to Scotland – to our economy, our educational communities and institutions, and also to our society. The attraction of Scotland’s academic excellence is augmented by our warm welcome and unique cultural offer.

Cutting-edge international campuses – such as Heriot Watt’s Dubai and Malaysia campuses, and Glasgow Caledonian University’s Fair Fashion Centre in New York City – mean the exceptional teaching, high levels of student satisfaction, and research excellence which characterise Scottish Higher Education institutions are accessible to tens of thousands more students across the world.

Top ten EU sending countries in 2021-22 for HE students in Scotland [15]
Country of domicile Number of students Change over year
1 Ireland 2,275 -4%
2 Germany 1,925 -18%
3 France 1,560 -19%
4 Spain 1,550 -8%
5 Italy 1,510 -21%
6 Greece 950 -21%
7 Poland 845 -18%
8 Bulgaria 685 -26%
9 Cyprus 610 -14%
10 Sweden 530 -22%
Top ten non- EU sending countries in 2021-22 for HE students in Scotland [16]
Country of domicile Number of students Change over year
1 China* 22,455 21%
2 India 10,165 77%
3 USA 6,320 20%
4 Nigeria 5,620 112%
5 Pakistan 3,325 155%
6 Canada 1,380 15%
7 Malaysia 1,380 23%
8 Ghana 850 85%
9 Bangladesh 805 148%
10 Saudi Arabia 740 -5%

*China represents 27% of all international enrolments. Breaking down by region of China, there were 20,830 enrolments from mainland China (25.3% of all international enrolments), 1,165 enrolments from Hong Kong (1.4%), 395 enrolments from Taiwan (0.5%) and 65 enrolments from Macau (0.1%).

International opportunities

We will publish Scotland’s first International Education Strategy in 2023. It will commit to work with our universities and colleges to promote and enhance Scotland’s education and research offer internationally. The strategy will align with the priorities in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation and in our Global Affairs Framework to help boost skills and productivity, with a focus on opportunities that will transform our economy and our society.

We will work with our universities and colleges to diversify our international student population and promote our reputation as a welcoming, safe, and diverse country, with a vibrant cultural scene, positive social policies, and many green spaces.

Our International Network already promotes the academic and research excellence of our universities and colleges. It will continue to invest in international relationships, enhance our communications activity with our educational diaspora, and unlock new, diverse opportunities for our universities and colleges. This international collaboration will seek fair solutions to global challenges, including a just transition to net zero and tackling inequality.

Scotland’s alumni

International students support and promote the long-term development of Scotland’s reputation and influence around the world. We recognise the enormous value of our international alumni as valuable members of our diaspora who raise the profile of Scotland and help to promote our social, cultural, academic, and economic links with other countries. They are always a friendly face who understand Scotland, and help us see ourselves as others see us.

Studying in Scotland’s world-class institutions equips students with the knowledge, skills, and technical expertise they need to succeed. For many, their time spent living and studying in Scotland fosters a bond of affinity which they cherish for the rest of their lives.

We will continue to support and expand our global alumni networks. Our universities are independent institutions and have their own alumni networks. We will seek opportunities to connect these alumni networks with each other and with wider Scottish interests. We will encourage connections between GlobalScots and the alumni community, for example to build mentoring relationships, find new trade, investment, and employment opportunities, and strengthen the diversity and reach of the group.

We will work with our universities to explore how best to engage their alumni communities, including in approaches to highly anticipated events like St Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night. These events not only encourage visitors but form cultural touchpoints for diaspora celebrating internationally. We will also work with the British Council to explore the use of their new Alumni platform[17] to reach more alumni of Scottish universities.

Our international offices will increase their connections with alumni groups in-country, seeking advice on delivering Scotland’s objectives, but also celebrating and enhancing the vibrancy of Scotland’s alumni networks as an end it itself.



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