INTERNATIONAL graduates from Scottish universities are to be targeted under a new scheme to promote Scotland.

Under the plan, the Scottish Government will work with universities and businesses to improve overseas alumni networks to increase exports, improve research collaboration and promote Scotland as a place to study, work and live.

In the past 20 years, the proportion of international students here has more than doubled to 23,000 from 180 countries.

A recent study by London Economics calculated that in 2015/16 the net economic benefit to Scotland of each EU student was £95,000 including tuition fees, living costs and other expenditure.

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The report estimated total net economic contribution of international students to Scotland as £1.94 billion.

Richard Lochhead, the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said more could be done to ensure international graduates turned their experiences into “influence and support” for Scotland.

Writing in The Herald he said: “Graduates can be strong advocates for the Scottish universities at which they gained their qualifications.

“Some will hold prominent positions in business, industry and government and all will wield some influence on future decisions of families, friends and peers, whether that be which universities their children will study at or where they go on holiday.

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“As ambassadors for Scotland and our higher education institutions, they can have a huge impact.”

Mr Lochhead said a new group would be set up this summer to jointly agree a strategy to put alumni at the heart of “global ambitions”.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said international students made a huge contribution.

He said: “Alumni are a key community who can strengthen links with business and create cultural and philanthropic opportunities, so we look forward to further engagement with the minister on mutually beneficial actions.”

Liam McCabe, president of NUS Scotland, added: “This is a progressive step to ensure Scotland retains overseas students as global ambassadors.”