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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.

Executive Summary


The Scottish Government’s vision is to become more active internationally, forming connections and partnerships across the globe with countries who share our ambitions to alleviate poverty, achieve net zero and be an attractive place to live, work, visit, study and do business.

Within that context, our ambitions for Scotland’s first International Education Strategy (IES) are:

  • to work with our universities and colleges to attract students, staff, and researchers from outside the UK; to help diversify our international student population; and support them to maximise their contribution to Scotland.
  • as an outward looking, inclusive 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.
  • as a world leader in international education, research and knowledge exchange, we will deepen our global collaborations and engagements.

Our universities and colleges are globally respected. The National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) highlights that Scotland has more top universities per head of population than any other country in the world and is in the top quartile of OECD countries for Higher Education Research & Development. As highlighted by the College Development Network’s International Ambitions Report, Scottish colleges successfully export, engage, and excel overseas. They welcome students from over 130 countries, hold partnerships from Azerbaijan to Vietnam and attracted more Erasmus+ funding per capita for their staff and students than the rest of the UK. Colleges act as ‘enablers’ of internationalisation given their responsibility to reflect the needs of industry, government, and internationally competitive skills.

The opportunity to draw in talent, co-develop and attract investment into joint collaborations, and build our international reputation and profile is huge. Our teaching, research, innovation, and knowledge exchange must continue to make a difference - to enhance and contribute to global wellbeing, address 21st Century challenges and attract inward investment and talent to study, live and work in Scotland.

Scotland’s IES has been developed in challenging economic times that require us all to work even closer to support our shared ambition for strengthening international education and research collaborations and knowledge exchange. In our 23-24 Programme for Government, we are committed to bringing forward legislation to ensure the right structures and organisations are in place to help make Scotland the best place in the world to be educated.

The Scottish Government’s International network of offices are located in Beijing (China), Berlin (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dublin (Ireland), London (United Kingdom), Ottawa (Canada), Paris (France) and Washington DC (USA). These offices directly engage with governments and organisations in their respective countries, to learn from others’ experiences and to share our knowledge, skills, and technical expertise for the global good. They also facilitate high-level engagement abroad for Scottish Ministers and provide a base for Scottish public sector and commercial stakeholders to interact with their international partners. Through these important engagements, we help share and build understanding on common challenges and priorities, pave the way for new cultural and commercial projects, and develop partnerships with our key partners and attract people to come to live and work, study, visit and do business in Scotland.


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