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Scotland’s people are the most highly educated in Europe

It may be a surprise to some to find that the people of Scotland are the most highly educated in Europe and that looks set to continue with record levels of new enrolments in Scottish degree courses.

Scotland’s higher education sector is thriving and includes some of the world’s oldest universities. However, in the last ten years, three new universities have been established. Universities Scotland has nineteen member institutions but it is not all about degrees – there are also 16 further education colleges in Scotland. For example, The City of Glasgow College is ranked number one for skills in the UK with eight of its students winning medals at the UK Skills Show.

The Scottish education sector has a huge mix of academic disciplines and can be considered world leaders across many research areas. For instance, Edinburgh is a leader in artificial intelligence, Dundee in digital industries and biotechnology, and Aberdeen in offshore oil and gas technology to name but a few.

A few more brief facts about the education sector

  • More than 4,500 of Scotland’s academics hail from other EU nations
  • 69% of jobs in the sector are located in Scotland’s most economically deprived areas
  • Dundee’s life sciences cluster supports 16% of jobs on Tayside 
  • Scotland boats 241,935 students in full-time and part-time education, of whom more than 21,000 come from other EU nations
  • Scottish universities generate £1.5 billion in export earnings a year for Scotland’s economy
  • On a per head basis, Scotland wins 43% more in EU research funding than the rest of the UK

Under threat from Brexit?

As you can see the success of our higher education sector, stunning as it is, is still heavily interconnected and interdependent with Scotland’s EU membership. As I write this we may only be two days away from crashing out of the EU and losing access to all those vital EU research grants and throwing the status of our EU students, teaching and research staff into doubt.

Don’t just take my word for it: Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow, stated that Brexit is the single largest threat to the Scottish higher education sector:  

“No one yet knows whether the UK will remain a member of the EU-dominated European Research Area (ERA), launched by the European Commission in 2000, with the aim of developing attractive research opportunities in Europe.

Scotland’s universities take about 12% of the UK’s ERA funding – well above its 8.4%% population share. There are question marks too over the UK’s future membership of the Horizon 2020 European science funding programme and the Erasmus student exchange programme, which gives students the opportunity to spend time studying abroad.”

About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.

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