Ashley Yaro (middle), Law student and GREAT Scholarship alumna | International scholars celebrating their achievements at University of Edinburgh’s Playfair Library.  ©

Lewis Gourlay

Thursday 21 March 2024

180 International Scholars came together at University of Edinburgh’s Playfair library on Tuesday at a special event to honor the scholars who have chosen Scotland as their academic home. The event attracted guests from Connected Scotland, 19 Scottish Universities, and Scottish Government representatives.

International students make up almost a quarter of the student population in Scotland, and last year, Scotland welcomed over 82,000 international scholars from over 180 countries around the world. Just a fraction of them came together to meet with friends, network, and reflect on the shared experiences of studying and work. The reception was hosted by the British Council through Study UK, along with partners across the University sector, and the Scottish Government.

All international scholars were celebrated at the event, with special representation across seven leading scholarship schemes including Chevening, Marshall, Commonwealth, Study UK GREAT Scholarships, the, Fulbright, and British Council Scholarships - Higher Education Scholarships for Palestinians (HESPAL) and Women in STEM.

Hailing from as far afield as Tonga, and Kazakhstan, the scholars spoke to us about the experiences they’ve had through their respective scholarship programmes, from how they’ve embraced Scottish culture and their travel around the country, to the warm welcomes they’ve received from their universities:

Ashley Yaro, a Law graduate from Kenya and alumna of the GREAT Scholarship programme, spoke to the scholars about her experience while studying at the University of Edinburgh.

“While what I’m about to say seems like a commercial for Scotland, I promise it’s all true! The year I spent in Edinburgh was one of the most transformative of my life. – Before I began my masters, I was nervous and worried about coming away from my support network in Kenya and wasn’t sure I would make it. But I needn’t have worried, as Scotland, the lecturers, and the University of Edinburgh itself embraced me”.

She spoke about her experiences of the city itself: “Edinburgh is immensely walkable, with beautiful scenery, and not only did I have the opportunity to study in a world-class institution, I got to travel around Scotland - I took day-trips to Glasgow, North Berwick and even to Airdrie. Walking along the Water of Leith and being in the city centered me and helped me discover more about myself and the way I work.”

Ashley had some top tips for students thinking of studying in Scotland. “Take all the opportunities you can while in Scotland – it’s a once in a life-time opportunity and the scholarship is just the start of what your experience can be – to live in Scotland, experience the people, culture, and beautiful scenery – and you too will sound like an advert! You’ll make amazing connections, and it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life, so make the most of it.”

Key speakers highlighted the value, and the great contribution international scholars make in Scotland:

Andrea Nolan, International Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, welcomed the students saying:

“I’m delighted to celebrate with our global scholars tonight. Those who choose to study in Scotland bring with them rich experience and diverse perspectives – all contributing to the strong international outlook for our universities. This evening’s event is a celebration of you, of your achievements, and the fact that your own and Scotland’s future is brighter for having you here studying with us."

Peter Brown, Director for British Council Scotland, spoke about the importance of building international connections for Scotland’s universities: 

At the heart of our work in Scotland is building connections for trust and understanding with countries around the world. A key part of this is supporting international students through the Study UK Campaign and scholarship programmes.

“It takes courage to travel across the world to embark on higher education. It’s truly heartening to see so many young people here tonight and to hear your stories of studying and living here and we hope that you have found a home away from home. It is a real testament to the welcoming university sector here in Scotland and the world class study destination of the UK."

Shirley Laing, the new Director of Lifelong Learning and Skills for the Scottish Government welcomed the students, saying.

“International scholars can become amazing ambassadors as they continue their education journey. We welcome you to Scotland and recognise that you all have an incredibly positive impact for institutions and wider communities here. 

“I’ve already heard some great stories from some of you about how studying in Scotland has impacted you and your future career paths and I know that you all bring unique perspectives, and that each of you help to establish far-reaching global connections, invaluable for Scotland’s universities.

She added about the Higher Education Sector and the Scottish Government’s International Education Strategy:

“The reciprocal relationships celebrated this evening demonstrate Scotland’s outward looking and inclusive approach in higher education. Building on this, the Scottish Government published its first International Education Strategy last month setting out the Scottish Government’s aim to become more active internationally and form partnerships across the world.”


Notes to Editor

About Connected Scotland

(Within Universities Scotland) is a partnership bringing together universities and partner organisations since 2014 to assist the education sector in positioning itself as a world leader and in becoming an international partner of choice in teaching, research and knowledge exchange. The partnership does this by connecting people, delivering events, commissioning relevant research, and promoting Scottish HE through the production and promotion of materials.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-22 we reached 650 million people.