John Donnelly: Students love our capital city – and they bring lots of money with them

Earlier this year, ­Edinburgh rose 15 places in the QS World’s Best Student ­Cities Index, moving into the top 20 at 18.

Earlier this year, ­Edinburgh rose 15 places in the QS World’s Best Student ­Cities Index, moving into the top 20 at 18.

Released annually, the findings ­provide international students with a target list of urban destinations to consider for study. Cities are ­­measured on their university rankings, student mix, desirability, employer activity, affordability and student view. Edinburgh’s strongest performance was in this final section, where students were given a direct voice on their experience.

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Edinburgh is currently the UK’s ­second highest-ranked student city, behind London. A remarkable result, but one which hasn’t taken me by ­surprise.

Edinburgh is a world-class hub of educational excellence. We are home to four exceptional universities, highly regarded in all corners of the globe. Whilst our education offering is indisputable, students are attracted to more than just our academic ­credentials.

We have a world-renowned reputation for arts, science and business. We’re compact, our city centre is safe, and we have a multicultural community which welcomes international students.

It makes sense that so many ­students move here because they believe Edinburgh is the perfect place to live and study. I believe it’s vital that we continue to build a strong student economy. Students account for around 12 per cent of Edinburgh’s population and are a significant ­revenue driver. They are our pipeline for talent and growth, for producing productive workforces, for drawing in investment and boosting jobs and local businesses.

International students now ­generate more than £25billion for the UK economy. The city’s transport and retail sectors benefit ­significantly. These students also have overseas visitors, with ­family and friends having a positive impact on our hotels, restaurants and attractions.

In our role to promote Edinburgh as one of the best places in the world to study, Marketing Edinburgh recently conceived an innovative international university student recruitment campaign. The first collaboration of its kind positioned the city as the number one destination for ‘first-class learning’ to prospective students abroad.

The campaign unified all four of Edinburgh’s universities (Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, Queen ­Margaret University and the University of Edinburgh) and launched the city as a gateway to world-class learning and opportunities.

Targeting key international ­markets in Malaysia, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, the online activation showcased not only the educational offering available at our five-star institutions, but also a taste of student life in Scotland’s capital city, through a series of videos and vignettes. There is a symbiotic relationship between the city and its universities.

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A key pillar of Marketing Edinburgh’s purpose and role is to unite likeminded businesses and collectively shine a spotlight on Edinburgh, presenting it as one of the world’s best places to live, work, study and invest.

Backed by partner airline ­Etihad Airways, the results have been remarkable. The activity reached more than 3.5 million potential students via social media in the core territories which we identified as growth ­areas, generated more than 400 enquiries, with the ‘20 reasons to study in Edinburgh’ footage sparking 1.6million completed video views. A global reach with local benefits.

Attracting the best students in the world is important to our city. It’s what propels us forward and reinstates our reputation as a global player. Many students who have studied here want to return to live and work in the city. They bring life, vibrancy and add to our rich culture and ­heritage.

The campaign was launched ­following a string of accolades for the city. It’s been voted the best UK city for three years in a row by The Telegraph and is also known as the world’s third safest city. Now Edinburgh is known as one of the happiest places in the UK and was identified as the greenest city in Britain, with almost half of it a green space.

It’s an exciting time to be part of Edinburgh. The city is setting new benchmarks, appealing to people looking for ‘quality of place’. The city is cosmopolitan, a world influencer and Marketing Edinburgh is energised by the prospect of inspiring more international students to study and live here.

John Donnelly is chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh.

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