The number of students coming to study at Scottish higher education institutions from other European Union Member States has risen dramatically over the last five years.
The number of EU students receiving fee support from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) has risen 93.8% between 2002-2003 and 2007-2008. There was also a 17.6% year-on-year increase in the figures.
Universities Scotland, the body responsible for representing and promoting Scotland’s higher education sector, attributes the rise to increased European mobility, with twelve additional countries having joined the EU during the period.
Furthermore, Scotland is one of only a few countries that are fully accredited to the Bologna process, whereby degree standards are more comparable and compatible throughout Europe.
The general increases in the number of international students, both from within and outwith the EU, have brought both economic and cultural benefits to Scotland.
A spokesperson for Universities Scotland explained the importance of attracting international students to Scottish higher education institutions.
He said: “International students make a vital contribution to Scotland. Not only in an economic sense but they also enrich our culture and society and will often stay in Scotland after they graduate, enabling Scotland to retain highly-skilled people.
“It is a testament to the quality and international reputation of our universities that international students continue to be attracted to Scotland.”
The report also shows that the number of Scottish students having their tuition fees paid by SAAS, when choosing to study outside Scotland, has fallen by 20.7% over the last five years.
This is despite the fact that since 2006-07, students have been entitled to fee loans, whereby fees are paid directly to the institution by SAAS and are then re-paid by students after they have graduated from university, in a manner similar to the Scottish student loan system.
Universities Scotland noted, however, that this level of attraction from mainland Europe can only be maintained by ensuring that Scottish institutions remain competitive amongst the European institutions.
A spokesperson for the organisation told Guardian: “It is vital that the Scottish Government ensures Scotland’s higher education sector is funded on a similar level to comparator countries so that institutions can maintain the high quality of teaching and student services which attract many international students to Scotland.”