Richer For It

The positive social, cultural and educational impact that international students have on Scotland

This report addresses the social and cultural contribution made by the 28,000 international students from 180 countries that study in Scotland’s higher education institutions.

Previously there has been more focus on the economic contribution international students make because this has been far easier to quantify.

This report demonstrates a number of tangible ways in which the presence of international students benefits their student peers and the communities outside of universities.

  • A culturally and ethnically mixed student population improves the employability prospects of all students as 79 per cent of employers say they want an awareness of the wider world within their new recruits.
  • Universities and their student associations work hard to integrate international students with the local community for mutual benefit. This is evident is a number of ways from cultural events, volunteering and hospitality schemes.
  • Scotland has a vast network of alumni around the world who retain strong connections with Scotland. Recognised as ‘soft power’ this is an important asset for Scotland that helps shape positive international perceptions and Scotland’s place in the world.

Educational and cultural benefits

Danielle Borrett and Professor Ho both embody the broad range of benefits of an international higher education in Scotland. Danielle feels she benefited personally and Professor Ho is a Global Scot, looking to give back to Scotland some of what he feels he gained whilst studying here.

Studying alongside international students enriched Danielle Borrett’s higher education. Danielle is a graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BA in Fashion Business.Danielle: “GCU has a hugely diverse student population and I firmly believe mixing with international students throughout my degree in Fashion Business pushed me to broaden my international perspective in every way.

“I have gained a huge amount from the diversity within my university experience. Having these experiences as a student has genuinely made me who I am today; someone who I believe is globally aware, enjoys mixing with people from across the world, is excited by other cultures and experiences and who isn’t afraid to face the global business environment we live in today.”

Professor Ho’s educational experience has had a lasting impact on his career and on his outlook on Scotland. He is a graduate of Edinburgh Napier University. Professor Ho says:
“My education changed my life. My Scottish higher education helped me to secure a managerial position immediately after returning home to Hong Kong. If I had not been given the opportunity to study in Scotland, my career would have been very uncertain.

“I used much of what I learnt as a marketing management student in Scotland, and turned a small shipping company into an organisation with a net worth of £25 million. My education arm, MacGregor Education recruits Hong Kong students to further their studies in the UK. MacGregor Education has successfully sent 74 students to study in Scotland.”

As a GlobalScot, Professor Ho helps Scottish students and graduates to study and work in Hong Kong. He has employed six Scots over the years to work in his company.

Key Points:

  • 28,000 international students study at Scotland’s universities.
  • A strong international student community helps cultivate an international outlook amongst our ‘home’ students.
  • There are over 150 student societies in Scotland linked to specific nationalities or ethnicities.
  • Scotland benefits from the ‘soft power’ of a vast network of university alumni around the world

Further Reading


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