Scotland universities: Scottish Government's international education blueprint fails to address risks of 'over exposure'
A new strategy to promote Scottish universities around the world fails to recognise the risk to the sector of international “over exposure", it has been claimed.
It sets out plans to attract more academic staff, and to encourage and support international students to stay in Scotland after qualifying to work in key industries.
However, the strategy has come amid growing concern over the reliance of Scottish universities on the fees of international students, amid cuts to teaching grants.
On Monday, The Scotsman revealed international students were more likely than Scots to get an offer to study in most subject areas at Edinburgh and St Andrews universities, with the offer-rate for prospective undergraduates from overseas being more than double that for Scottish students in some subjects.
Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “For the first time, the income from international students surpassed that from domestic students and both research and teaching is now subsidised by the fees of international students.
"This leaves Scottish higher education open to shocks in other parts of the world, whether that be economic, security or otherwise. The Scottish Government’s strategy is not only delayed, but doesn’t sufficiently recognise the risk faced by higher education as a result of over exposure.
“We have already seen this year a reduction in student numbers from some countries like China where economic issues have impacted applications. If there were to be more dramatic shocks such as, for example, military conflict between China and Taiwan, the impact on Scottish universities would be huge. This should have been addressed much more effectively by the new strategy.”
As part of the strategy, the Government said activity would be increased to promote universities and colleges internationally to prospective students, with global alumni communities and the wider Scottish diaspora being engaged, including through the existing network of international offices.
Work to develop a Scottish exchange programme will also continue, and a Talent Attraction and Migration Service will be launched later this year, providing information and advice for students considering staying in Scotland after qualifying.
Higher and further education minister Graeme Dey said: “Scotland already has more top universities per head of population than any other country in the world. This strategy sets out our collective aim to create the conditions for our universities and colleges to continue to flourish.
"In the coming months and years, we will continue to work with Scotland’s universities and colleges to help them diversify their international student, research and staff population by enhancing our reputation as a world-leading safe and inclusive country, with open-minded social policies.
"We will help maximise the social and economic benefits of international higher education, and we will continue to promote Scotland’s world leading research and knowledge exchange sector on the global stage."
Professor Andrea Nolan, Universities Scotland international committee convener, said: “This is Scotland’s first international education strategy, and it gives us a platform, working together with government and other partners, to further develop these positive links to strengthen the sector’s contribution to the economy, society and culture.”
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