Today, College Development Network (CDN) published a research report which shows that Scotland’s college sector is in a strong position to contribute to Scotland’s international ambitions.

International Ambitions – An Analysis of Internationalisation Across the Scottish College Sector is the first report of its kind for colleges in the UK. It was commissioned by CDN with the support of the Scottish Government, Scottish Development International, and British Council Scotland. CDN’s partners at the Association of Colleges conducted the research.

The report follows on from the publication of The Cumberford-Little Report, One Tertiary System: Agile, Collaborative, Inclusive, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government to consider what more Scottish colleges can do to help improve business performance and productivity. Among its recommendations, The Cumberford-Little Report suggests that the sector’s fledgling export successes could be widened across the sector, in line with Scottish Government international ambitions.

International Ambitions set out to test this recommendation. The report finds an evidence base that tells a powerful story about Scotland’s college sector overseas, and the areas where the sector has a unique contribution to make.

It explores college strengths and opportunities for growth and discovers consensus that colleges are agile, distinctive and ambitious – an attractive proposition to international governments and inward investment.

The report describes colleges as ‘anchor’ institutions, which are well placed to act as ‘enablers’ of internationalisation given their responsibility to reflect the needs of industry, government, and internationally competitive skills.

The development of a collective vision for internationalisation and a greater understanding of the opportunities available in a new future can help colleges to approach the change, challenge and complexity of internationalisation.

The report concludes that while international activity may be disrupted by Covid-19, the role of Scotland’s colleges and their orientation to internationalisation remains highly relevant as countries around the world seek to upskill and reskill their workforce.

Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, said:

‘I welcome the publication of this important report on the college sector. The report amplifies the key role that the Scottish college sector can play in achieving our international ambitions, including growing Scotland’s exports and attracting inward investment.

‘As we emerge from the COVID crisis Scottish colleges have an opportunity to maximise their international impact by working with countries around the world to help upskill and reskill their workforce.’

Jim Metcalfe, Chief Executive of CDN, said:

‘I am delighted to introduce this important piece of work, and CDN’s first major piece of research coming out of our new three-year Strategic Framework, at a time when colleges are poised to make a major contribution to Scotland’s economic revival. The report provides a compelling rationale for the role of colleges in Scotland’s economic and international ambitions.’

Lucy Young, Head of Education, British Council Scotland, said:

‘We are delighted to support the publication of this research that clearly shows the vital role that Scotland’s colleges play in connecting educators and students around the world, and in providing the skills needed for communities in the future.

‘We know that the college sector is a distinct asset for Scotland and the UK and a growing component of our global reputation. We also know that the current pandemic will have a lasting impact on the sector. This report provides valuable insight into how colleges can help maintain international partnerships and build understanding, both vital as we face current challenges.’

Neil Francis, Director of Global Trade at Scottish Development International, said:

‘CDN’s report is most welcome and reinforces the potential of Scotland’s colleges to internationalise.

‘This report chimes with the Scottish Government’s priorities set out in its A Trading Nation – a plan for growing Scotland’s exports strategy, which makes clear there is untapped potential for colleges to work collaboratively with exporters to deliver trade opportunities in our priority markets.

‘As we carefully emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, international trade will be essential to Scotland’s economic recovery. SDI looks forward to continuing to work with CDN to support the sector’s global ambitions.’