Success for Team Scotland in Paris this weekend

Over the weekend, Universities Scotland’s International team, Ela Kossakowska and Dr David Donaldson attended L’Etudiant Study Abroad Fair in Paris, representing the Scottish higher education sector. They have shared insights into the successful Fair and highlighted the importance of international partnerships and students for Scotland.

With the eyes of Scotland focussed on Paris on Saturday, Scottish rugby was not the only “Team Scotland” in France last weekend. Whilst it proved not to be Scotland’s time to shine in the Stade de France, Scottish higher education was a huge hit at the L’Etudiant Study Abroad Fair, the largest study abroad fair in France, over two days at Portes de Versailles in Paris.

Nine diverse universities made-up “Team Scotland” at the L’Etudiant Fair, as well as Connected Scotland, Universities Scotland and the support of the Scottish Government. All were there to promote Scottish undergraduate and postgraduate study opportunities to prospective French applicants. Around 4,000 French students attended the Fair and the level of interest in Scottish higher education was very high. There was barely a quiet moment at the Team Scotland stand, highlighting the strong desire of students from France to continue to study in Scotland despite the barriers of Brexit.

The Team Scotland collaboration was made possible thanks to the work of Brand Scotland and Connected Scotland, a longstanding partnership that brings together eight organisations, including Universities Scotland, the Scottish Government and the British Council, that have an interest in promoting the excellence of Scottish Higher Education on the international stage.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Shona Robison MSP, attended the fair on Saturday morning. She talked to students, helped promote Scotland and was keen to see how partnerships like Connected Scotland, and its work with Brand Scotland, can open new international opportunities for Scottish Higher Education through collegiate activities. She praised the Connected Scotland partnership and the work it was doing to bring Scottish universities together in their international outreach activities and highlighted the importance of maintaining the strong links that both Scotland and Scottish universities have with France and Europe.

The nine universities, there as part of the collaboration, were Abertay University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Dundee, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Glasgow, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Stirling and the University of Strathclyde.

The Deputy First Minister’s attendance at L’Etudiant came not long after the Scottish Government’s announcement that it will be committing £1 million to a Scottish Education Exchange Programme Test and Learn Project in 2023/24. The Test and Learn Project is a welcome, first stage, in the ambition to deliver a new two-way mobility scheme for students and staff in Scotland, after we lost access to Erasmus+. Having secured modest funds for the pilot stage, Scotland’s universities are keen to know more of the Scottish Government’s plans to expand the Exchange Programme next year as well as what support will be available for the long-awaited International Education Strategy.

Universities believe that a new International Education Strategy could be a helpful catalyst to institutions, support economic and social growth at home and help to reaffirm the value Scotland places on being open and outward-looking when it comes to our place in the world. An effective Strategy will need some resource behind it however, and there’s concern (voiced in Universities Scotland’s budget case: Opportunity and inclusive growth in a time of challenge) that so far £6 million of the £14.7 million notionally committed by the Scottish Government to support universities’ international activities has been reallocated for other Scottish Government priorities.

Back in France, the Team Scotland approach in Paris shows the effectiveness of leveraging the strength in partnerships like Connected Scotland. Funding to support collaborative initiatives and taking more opportunities to work together to elevate Scotland on the world stage, will be critical for the success of the Scottish International Education Strategy.