Town and gown links hold key to the future

JP License'University of Edinburgh'Graduation Ceremony 2015''Stock pics of graduating students from University of Edinburgh.''' Neil Hanna Photography'www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk'07702 246823
JP License'University of Edinburgh'Graduation Ceremony 2015''Stock pics of graduating students from University of Edinburgh.''' Neil Hanna Photography'www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk'07702 246823
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ATTRACTING top global students to city’s universities enriches the student body and Edinburgh, writes John Donnelly

As Edinburgh welcomes back its student population, it seems an ideal opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the huge contribution our undergraduates and graduates make to this city.

Edinburgh is one of the UK’s great student cities – and it has been for more than 400 years. Four award-winning universities, combined with the lure and appeal of a stunning compact city which offers a rich culture, lifestyle and a vibrant nightlife. It’s not hard to understand why more than 78,500 students choose to make Edinburgh their academic home every year.

And, our students bring a whole raft of benefits with them. The positive economic impact is an obvious starting point. UK-wide, students contribute over £7 billion to the British economy. In Edinburgh, this equates to around £112.1 million per annum, not forgetting the additional £14.4m the universities bring in via tourism.

The numbers are significant, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It is no accident that at 54 per cent Edinburgh has the highest percentage of degree-level educated residents the UK. More than half of Scottish academic research takes place in Edinburgh and the Lothians, where universities are commonly regarded as hubs of excellence. The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University are famed for their global five-star research institutions, such as the Edinburgh Science Triangle and Roslyn Institute.

Edinburgh’s ever-increasing global reputation within digital industries also owes a huge amount to its close connections with the city’s academic institutions, recognised as world leaders in the fields of informatics, robotics and computer science. Early this year Tech Nation singled out the Scottish capital as second only to London in Britain’s digital technology clusters. In the last three years, the number of digital companies in Edinburgh has grown by a third, with more than 17,000 now people working in the industry.

Of the eight “unicorns” in the UK, digital companies under five years old with a turnover £1bn plus, Edinburgh is home to two, FanDuel and Skyscanner. The University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics has produced more world-leading and internationally excellent research than any other university in the UK. Key computing science strengths in areas such as machine learning, natural language processing and cloud architecture in the Edinburgh universities have helped create a developer talent pool which has fed this industry growth.

This talent pool which our universities attract is so important to our city, driving us forward and reinforcing our reputation as a global player. To do this we don’t want just the best students in Scotland to study in Edinburgh, we want the best in the world.

It’s with this objective in mind that Marketing Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh have formed a unique Corporate Partnership, aimed specifically at students aged 17-20 in the priority target regions of North America, China and south-east Asia. This is not only about showcasing the opportunities and undeniable excellence the university has to offer, but what the city itself can bring to their student life and their personal world experience.

World Class Edinburgh is a multi-layered digital campaign supported by online and social media advertising. Giving a real-life snapshot of four Edinburgh students from China, the Netherlands, Malaysia and the US, a two-minute film at the heart of the campaign showcases one of Europe’s most appealing cities.

Ranked 17th in the prestigious world QS rankings, which are published annually based on institution’s academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact, the University of Edinburgh has around 14,000 overseas students studying post-graduate and undergraduate courses. This equates to around 42 per cent of the overall student body, but there is huge potential and benefits in increasing this number.

International students are massively important to the city dynamic and its identity. They enrich the campus and internationalise the university experience for all. They are the city’s future ambassadors and university alumni, who will go on to support our city for decades to come – from the softer, word of mouth power and cultural diplomacy to influencing the decision to bring a multi-million pound research conference to Edinburgh.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the city and the University of Edinburgh. Students want to study in a world-leading university, but the quality life experience that a location has to offer is just as crucial, and Edinburgh, with its stunning backdrop, rich history and vibrant, cultural heritage offers exactly that. Students choose the city they wish to study in as much as the university. That is at the heart of this campaign.

There are many world class universities, but how many of them are in world class cities. Welcome Class of 2015, do our city proud.

• John Donnelly, chief executive Marketing Edinburgh www.marketingedinburgh.org

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