Described by many as the best ‘small country’ in the world and with a world-renowned reputation for excellence in education, Scotland is proving to be a popular destination for overseas students.

There are currently over 28,000 students from overseas studying in Scotland. With 14 universities, six specialist higher education institutions and 48 further education colleges across the country, there are plenty of places and courses to choose from, whether you want to study in a big city or on a remote Scottish island.

Scotland has always been an innovator in the field of education. In 1496, Scotland became the first country in Europe since ancient Greece to institute a system of compulsory education and countries such  as America and France went on to model their school systems  on Scotland.

Education in Scotland is all about teaching people how to  think rather than what to think and as a result the country has nurtured some of the most remarkable minds in the fields of philosophy, medicine, finance, law and engineering. Scots know the value of good education, with more than half of all school-leavers going on to attend college or university  - by far the highest proportion in the UK.

Scotland is renowned for being a knowledgeable, inventive and outward-looking nation, which is not surprising considering that it was Scotland which gave the world television, the telephone, the fax, the photocopier, the pregnancy scanner and the first 3D computer game.

This pioneering spirit which drove great Scots like Alexander Graham Bell is still alive and well today, as demonstrated by the team at Scotland’s Roslin Research Institute where the first animal  cloned from adult cells – the globally celebrated Dolly the Sheep – was born.

Scotland as a country has so much to offer and manages to cram an incredible amount into such a small area. The country has some of the largest areas of unspoilt wilderness in Europe and its landscape is rich in historic battlefields, cathedrals, castles and stately homes.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s towns and cities are modern, thriving and dynamic centres of activity. Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen are all hotspots of culture and entertainment and the Edinburgh International Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world.

Scotland’s economy has undergone an amazing transformation in recent years.  Where once it led the world in shipbuilding, engineering and textiles, today it is producing some of the latest advances in the new technologies of optoelectronics and life sciences.

Scotland is truly one of the most modern of modern nations and the creation of the first Scottish Parliament in 300 years in 1999 and the subsequent opening of the new home for Scotland’s MSPs has provided the country with the opportunity to once more forge its own future.

However, opinion formers and commentators across the  political spectrum, academia and the business community agree that the country must be proactive in safeguarding Scotland’s growing and changing economy. In order to do this it must actively attract fresh talent to its shores to enable the country to grow and develop as a nation.

It was for this reason that in February 2004, Scotland’s First Minister, Jack McConnell, launched the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme (FTWISS), which aims to attract skilled people to live, work and study alongside five million native-born Scots.

Not only has the initiative established a one-stop-shop providing practical advice to those wanting to live and work in the country, it also offers international students a unique opportunity.

The key to FTWISS is simple – non-European Economic Area (EEA) students who graduate in Scotland can apply to stay and work in the country for a further two years without the requirement of a work permit.

For years, students from across the EEA have had the right to live and take up employment in Scotland. Thanks to this new scheme, students from non-EEA countries can now also benefit from the same opportunities and move from the world of study to the world of work.

To be eligible to apply for permission to stay, international students must have studied in Scotland and graduated from a Scottish university or further education college with a Higher National Diploma (HND), a first degree, Masters or PhD.

Although the maximum stay period under FTWISS is two years, there are a number of managed migration routes in place such as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, Work Permit Employment and Persons Intending to Establish Themselves in Business, which allow non-EEA graduates the opportunity to extend their stay in Scotland.

A unique element of the Fresh Talent initiative is the Relocation Advisory Service (RAS). One of the service’s key roles is to keep the Scottish business community informed about FTWISS.

A number of industries and geographic areas within Scotland are facing skills shortages and have an acute need for young adults to bolster their workforce. It is essential,  therefore, that employers are made aware of the fact that they can hire non-EEA graduates without having to obtain a work permit.

Through RAS, employers are learning that Fresh Talent is a vital tool in enabling Scotland’s businesses to thrive in the competitive global marketplace and it is opening doors for graduates that would otherwise have remained closed.

Commenting on FTWISS, Jack McConnell, First Minister for Scotland said:
“We want to welcome bright, talented, hard working individuals from around the world who can make a positive contribution to Scotland. If we are to compete – and succeed – in the global economy, then we’ll need a constant flow of fresh skills to complement our own home-grown expertise.

It is for these reasons that Fresh Talent is geared to work with our universities and businesses to attract skilled, experienced individuals to live, learn and work in Scotland.”

The Scottish Executive has been working closely with British Council Scotland to raise the profile of FTWISS throughout it’s global network of offices. As a result, students  around the world are learning that Scotland is not only a great place to study but a fantastic place in which to develop a career.

Fresh Talent Student:
Zehra Jafri
Zehra Jafri first came to Scotland in 2004 as a student and now runs her own business, Zehra Jalfri Limited, selling stationery and computer accessories from her premises at the Forge shopping complex in the east end of Glasgow.

Born in Pakistan, Zehra had always wanted to run her own business and in order to realise  her dream she decided to study for an MBA at Strathclyde University.

Zehra had never visited Scotland and despite initial concerns that she would find it hard to settle in, she decided to stay on a permanent basis and make Glasgow her home.

Zehra said:
“Although I had never visited Scotland, I had heard so much about it and it was actually the reputation of Strathclyde University that persuaded me to come and study in Glasgow.

Less than one per cent of business schools in the world hold triple accreditation and Strathclyde is one of them so I was understandably delighted when I was accepted onto the course.

I didn’t know anyone when I first moved here and expected it to be quite tough to settle in but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. The university has a great support network in place for foreign students and as a foreigner in a strange place I felt extremely comfortable.

When I completed my MBA I returned to Pakistan but I missed Scotland and moved back after just four months. It was then that I started working towards launching my company.

To be honest I found the whole process of starting up a business in Glasgow to be extremely rewarding. It was just like a dream come true and I really enjoy talking to hundreds of customers everyday.

The initial start-up process did require a lot of hard work and dedication but I certainly wouldn’t change anything. It’s great being able to put all my creative ideas into practice and  watch my business grow and develop.

Glasgow is such a wonderful city. I doubt that I would’ve had the opportunity to secure a similar job back home and I’m delighted that I’m able to stay and work in Scotland.”

Zehra is just one of the thousands of students who have chosen to live and work in Scotland, but in order to encourage more people to visit its shores, the Scottish Executive introduced the Scottish International Scholarship Programme in 2005.

Managed by the British Council on behalf of the Scottish Executive, the programme is targeted specifically at students from China, India, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Singapore, offering them the opportunity to study towards a Masters degree at one of the many higher education institutions in Scotland.

Science and technology and the  creative industries are two of the fastest growing sectors within Scotland and 22 scholarships have already been awarded to students wishing to study within these areas.

Nine scholars from China, six from India, two from South Africa, two from Australia, two from Singapore and one from New Zealand have embarked on a course of study at a range of institutions throughout Scotland.

The scholarship itself covers all tuition fees, the price of a return flight and a living allowance which will cover the duration of the degree course and applications are currently being accepted for the 2007/08 academic year.

ScotlandScotland is justifiably proud of it’s history, but at the same time is conscious of not living in the past. By working closely with Scotland’s higher and further education institutions, the Scottish Executive is confident that FTWISS will be a success. Not only will the scheme help inject new blood into the country’s population and economy, but it will help to confirm Scotland’s colleges and universities as some of the best in the world.