Wednesday 02 October 2013

British Council Scotland publishes detailed assessment of Scotland’s higher education system and its defining strengths

A British Council Scotland-commissioned report, the first of its kind to compile and examine the distinctive assets of Scotland’s higher education sector as a whole, reveals the Scottish system is world class and rated highly not only against the rest of the UK but internationally. The report finds, among other facts, that the overall learning satisfaction of international students in Scotland is unmatched worldwide, reflecting the Scottish ethos of higher education as a public good.

While perceptions of the Scottish higher education system are positive among respondents with a good knowledge of Scotland and its place within the UK, the report also reveals that many international education specialists and students overseas possess a lack of knowledge of how our system is differentiated from the rest of the UK.

The report (‘A strategic analysis of the Scottish higher education sector’s distinctive assets’), compiled and authored by international higher education specialists, Dr Neil Kemp and Dr William Lawton, is based on interviews with education professionals and stakeholders in Scotland, the rest of the UK, Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.  It is supplemented by data analysis, government documents and secondary sources. The overarching aim of the report was to focus on the positive assets of the higher education sector in Scotland in a holistic way, rather than cataloguing the academic excellence and research strengths of individual universities.

The defining characteristics that, collectively, are unique to Scotland include: 

  • primacy of the learner and a stress on life-long learning
  • an integrated and inclusive sector that is internationally active
  • a no-fees policy for Scottish and EU undergraduates
  • high employability rates for graduates
  • strong links with business and industry
  • an innovative system of research pooling and research investment
  • high levels of research impact including many spinoff companies
  • success in winning research income
  • strong recruitment of international students.

Lloyd Anderson, Director, British Council Scotland, said:

“This report tells a remarkable story of a national academic system that is world class and highly innovative, a story of which Scotland should be very proud. The nation’s assets include a higher than expected number of world-class universities, as rated by both academic indicators and the students themselves, and a uniquely joined-up, collaborative and inclusive sector. By cataloguing the strengths of Scotland’s higher education system, we can now promote these to the world with confidence, and encourage a curious world to come to Scotland.” 

Education Secretary Michael Russell, said:

“Scotland’s reputation for excellence in Higher Education was confirmed by the performance of some of our key institutions in the recent QS world university rankings. These findings back up what we’ve known for a long time – that students from overseas can enjoy a fulfilling academic experience in Scotland, and that they contribute significantly to student life. As the British Council points out, Higher Education in Scotland has considerable differences to the rest of the UK and their work, including the contents of this report, will help us raise awareness of the differences that exist.” 

Professor Nigel Seaton, Vice-Convener of the International Committee at Universities Scotland and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abertay Dundee, said:

“This report confirms the distinctive strengths that put Scottish higher education on the world stage, especially its emphasis on our integrated approach to lifelong learning as supported by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. In a highly competitive international market, independent endorsement of the particular strengths of our approach in Scotland is very welcome. As with any good report, it is also valuable for highlighting areas where we need to think about doing even better, notably in extending the benefits of higher education more widely in society.”

The authors of the report, Dr Neil Kemp and Dr William Lawton, added:

“This contribution to the discourse around Scottish higher education was made possible by the enthusiasm and willingness of the main stakeholders to engage with us, and we hope to have reflected the diversity of views accurately. There is of course room for improvement in any HE sector; the fact that the report emphasises the positive reflects the promotional mandate in regard to distinctive assets. This report shows that there is plenty to promote.”

Notes to Editor

Nick Freer

+44 (0) 7841 571871

About the British Council

The purpose of the British Council is to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

British Council Scotland builds long-term international relationships and trust between the peoples of Scotland and other countries, mindful of the international priorities of the Scottish government.  It does this through working with partners to achieve the following global outcomes for the benefit of Scotland:

  • Enhanced UK leadership of and shared learning from international education.
  • New ways of connecting with and seeing each other through the arts.
  • Stronger global citizenship among people in the UK and worldwide.