Universities role in economic transformation celebrated in Scottish Parliament

The contribution of universities to the economic transformation of Scotland was celebrated by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on 31 January 2023 as we held our annual Parliamentary reception.

MSPs, universities, stakeholders and friends of the higher educatiton sector gathered to hear about the sector’s strong culture of delivery which aligns closely with the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. As our Convener and Principal of St Andrews, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone remarked in her address to guests: universities are uniquely placed to deliver across all the actions within the NSET and so to support Scotland’s sustainable economic transformation and the ambition to accelerate it.

We’ve curated a set of 19 stories to show how universities support people, businesses, industries and Scotland’s regions towards economic transformation.

These stories across five NSET themes include:

  • The transformational power of widening access. Colleen Bell, a Royal Conservatoire graduate and award-winning film maker. As an estranged student, Colleen’s route into higher education was supported by an access initiative, led by the Conservatoire and its partner GMAC Film, which aims to transform the composition of Scotland’s creative industries. Colleen’s success is a great exemplifier of this and she has a bright future ahead of her in filmmaking.
  • Entrepreneurial and creative mindset. Robert Gordon University has put entrepreneurship and innovation at the heart of its mission to transform people and communities. RGU’s first startup accelerator programme has supported the creation of 98 business ventures so far, everything from artisan chocolate to an inflatable waterwheel which generates clean, accessible, affordable hydroelectricity.
  • Housing thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Eden Campus in Guardbridge, Fife makes connections between industry, academic and professional staff and students from the University of St Andrews, developing an entrepreneurial mindset within the community and nurturing businesses such as Lightwater Sensors, a spin-out company focused on the protection of clean drinking water worldwide.

Our event was kindly hosted by the MSP for North East Fife, Willie Rennie, who welcomed guests to the Garden Lobby. Mr Rennie has been a great supporter and challenger to the sector, so it was fitting he should host our event as the MSP for a constituency that contains the University of St Andrews.

The keynote address of the evening was delivered by Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. Ms Somerville committed to keeping our universities world-class and said that universities across the country were central to the Scottish Government’s ambitions for an internationally successful wellbeing economy and society, as well as anchors for cohesive communities that are central to Scotland’s international outlook.

Due to the pandemic, this was our first parliamentary reception since 2020 and was the first opportunity for the cohort of MSPs elected in 2021 to meet all 19 Scottish Higher Education Institutes at once.

Images from the night can be found in our Flickr album and below:

Economic Transformation in the Nation