The Cultural Importance of International Students in Scotland

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A report from Universities Scotland has emphasised the "positive social, cultural and educational impact" that international students have at universities in Scotland. Titled ‘Richer for it', the report is a reaction to the way that overseas students have recently been portrayed simply as a way to make money.

Universities Scotland is the representative body for Scotland's universities and higher education colleges, and together with a number of prominent figures in higher education, they have created the report which will be presented to MPs at Westminster.

With threats to international student visas a constant problem, the standard argument against change has been the amount of money that these students bring to the UK. Indeed, it is estimated that the 28,500 international students in Scotland bring £337 million every year in fees and an estimated £441 million in off-campus expenditure.

However, Head of the University of Aberdeen, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, explains:

"The true value of international students is much greater than can be quantified in monetary terms alone. The social, cultural and educational benefits gained from having international students study and live with us are immense. This is something I see every day at my own institution."

Benefits for Scottish Students

The report focussed on the benefits international students bring to universities, communities and Scotland as a whole, but most importantly to the Scottish students studying alongside them. It explains that:

"Graduates who can demonstrate an international outlook, cultural sensitivity and language skills are high in demand. Having a large and engaged population of international students, as Scotland's universities are proud to say they do, is integral to the creation of that experience."

This multicultural environment is created and developed both within the classroom and around campus. International students help create a "richer educational experience" with an "exchange of different perspectives, values, experiences and beliefs", but also through "informal socialisation" around campuses.

Specifically, the report looks at how international student societies bring a greater diversity to Scottish universities, arranging social events including food, music, sport, film and dance.

We believe this kind of report is a very positive step forward. International students themselves are so often lost within debates over visas, immigration and finance. Focussing on their cultural and social impact on the UK draws the attention back to the students themselves and the huge benefits they bring to our students, communities and country as a whole.

Read the full report here.

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