FOREIGN students rate Scotland the top destination worldwide for overall learning satisfaction, a report released today reveals.
The research, commissioned by British Council Scotland (BCS), is the first of its kind to examine what is distinctive about Scotland’s higher education system rather than concentrating on academic league tables and research strengths of individual universities.
It found the Scottish ethos of higher education as a public good was a major factor in the rating – unmatched worldwide – given by international students attending universities north of the Border.
The findings, involving interviews with education professionals and students in Scotland, the rest of the UK, Europe, North America, Asia and Africa, revealed the Scottish system was regarded as world-class and rated highly not only against the rest of the UK, but internationally.
However, the report noted many international education specialists and students were unaware of how “Brand Scotland’s” higher education differed from that of “Brand UK”.
The report, A Strategic Analysis of the Scottish Higher Education Sector’s Distinctive Assets, cited five defining characteristics it said, collectively, are unique to Scotland.
These were the highly “collaborative” and “joined-up” nature of the sector helped by its modest size, leading to research often being pooled; a Quality Assurance system ensuring teaching was up to scratch and recognising credits gained at college, making the sector more “inclusive”; a higher rate of graduates finding employment than the rest of the UK; four-year degrees giving a broader education; and a good reputation for securing research grants, pooling research and creating spin-off companies.
The no-fees policy for Scottish and EU graduates was also highlighted.
Data taken from the International Student Barometer feedback project of autumn 2011 showed students also praised the campus environment, safety, social activities and careers advice at Scottish universities.
Dr Lloyd Anderson, the director of BCS, said the findings would be discussed with regional experts in its 110 offices worldwide with the aim of promoting Scotland’s university system.
“This report tells a remarkable story of a national academic system that is world-class and highly innovative, a story of which Scotland should be very proud.
“The nation’s assets include a higher than expected number of world-class universities, as rated by both academic indicators and the students themselves … we can now promote these [strengths] to the world.”
Education secretary Mike Russell said: “Scotland’s reputation for excellence was confirmed by the performance of some of our key institutions in the recent QS world university rankings.”
Professor Nigel Seaton, vice-convener of the international committee at Universities Scotland, said: “In a highly competitive international market, independent endorsement of the particular strengths of our approach in Scotland is very welcome.”