Scotland’s universities welcome the world

Today (25 January), all 19 higher education institutions across Scotland have come together to back a new campaign to welcome students from around the world.

Scotland’s universities are already home to over 180 different nationalities among their students and staff. The new, global campaign, ‘Scotland’s universities welcome the world’ celebrates that and the diversity and inclusivity of Scottish higher education. Every one of Scotland’s higher education institutions has united as a group to share a message of welcome with the world.

The campaign officially was launched last night at an international Burns Night event in the Corn Exchange Edinburgh attended by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, alongside over 300 students, dignitaries and university staff from more than 65 different countries around the world.

Speaking about the campaign, the First Minister said:

 First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Scotland is very proud of our tradition for excellence in education, and also of our deep-seated sense of internationalism.

“We’re also incredibly proud that more than a fifth of our students come from outside the UK. It’s a huge compliment to Scotland and it demonstrates that our universities really are world-class. But it isn’t simply that international students choose Scotland as a result of our universities being excellent, they are one of the reasons why our universities are excellent.

“This has been an extraordinary past few months in the UK. We have confirmed that eligible EU students already studying here – or starting a degree later this Autumn – will continue to receive free tuition for the duration of their course. We will continue to press the UK Government to provide assurances that the status and rights of EU nationals currently living in Scotland will not change in the future.

“But more than anything else, every student who has come from outside Scotland – from the EU or further afield – to study here is welcome.”

Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal at Heriot-Watt University and Convener of Universities Scotland’s International Committee at Universities Scotland said:

Students from almost every country in the world come to Scotland to study in our universities: from Albania to Zimbabwe, and we are incredibly proud to welcome the world.

“We celebrated Burns Night with students and staff from over 68 different countries.  This is what Scottish culture represents for me – it is open, inclusive, international and welcoming.

“Scotland’s higher education institutions currently have staff and students from over 180 different countries, and 50,000 international students have chosen Scotland as their place of study.  This international diversity in our higher education institutions contributes significantly to the quality of education we can offer; it enriches the experience that all students have and helps us deliver world-leading research.

“All 19 of Scottish higher education institutions have come together to back this campaign, and to share the welcome, because we believe in the value of being part of an open and inclusive community of many cultures, world-views and experiences. This is beneficial for our higher education institutions and is beneficial for Scotland as a whole.”

Recent HESA research revealed Scottish higher education is home to over 20,000 EU students and almost 30,000 students from outside the EU. Last year saw two per cent more Chinese students, three per cent more American students and eight per cent more Malaysian students studying in Scotland. This helped boost total international students numbers from outside the EU by three per cent during the 2015/16 academic year.

Offering a view on the campaign from the perspective of a former international student, Raj Jeyaraj, International students’ officer for the National Unions of Students Scotland, said:

“As an international student, reaching Scotland for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. Coming all the way from Malaysia to study in Scotland meant being away from my friends, family and home for years, it was a scary thought – and this is a familiar story for many other international students.

“But in the end, it is the small things that make us feel at home. Things like a smile, someone asking ‘how are you doing’, being greeted at the airport, getting help moving into my accommodation, and – most importantly – being introduced to haggis, neeps And tatties.

“I’ve embraced Scotland. This is a country where you can build lifelong friendships, unite cultures and transcend borders; Scotland feels like the heart of a global community. I am proud to say that that #ScotlandWelcomesTheWorld.”

The event premiered a campaign video showcasing the welcome international students have received and why they love studying here. Scottish students celebrated the importance of studying as part of an international peer group. The video is live online at and further videos will be unveiled on social media over the coming weeks.

For more information about the global campaign, visit Students and others from around the world are joining in online using #Scotlandwelcomestheworld on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



  • Universities Scotland is the representative body of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions. It is a membership organisation working for the Principals and Directors of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions.
  • There are 29,210 international students (from outwith the EU) currently studying in Scotland’s universities (source: HESA, 2014/15) and another 20,805 from within Europe.
  • There are over 3,165 staff from outwith the EU and another 4,595 from EU countries working in Scotland’s universities (source: HESA 2014/15).
  • The Times Higher 2017 world university rankings placed five Scottish universities in the top 200 and another 7 universities feature in the list which represents the best 5 per cent of universities in the world. In addition the Glasgow School of Art and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland feature in the world’s top ten of their respective arts and performing arts institutions.