By John Edward

INDEPENDENT Schools in Scotland have an excellent track record of driving international student recruitment, which adds a global perspective to their learning environments. Boarding schools in particular welcome pupils from around the world, opening up routes to the increasingly globalised world of work through world-leading education.

With Britain leaving the EU, the future of international student recruitment is altered. As a consequence of this political sea change, we may see new obstacles introduced, such as visa requirements for European students. Schools will have to try even harder to avoid losing out on talent at every level, from incoming students to teaching and non-teaching staff, and as a sector we need to work strenuously to overcome this.

Scottish independent education is a globally recognised brand, and overseas students are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a boarding school in this country.

Attending a boarding school in Scotland opens up the broadest possible education in a new and exciting environment where dozens of nationalities, all with different languages, cultures and traditions, come together to learn from one another. Diversity is celebrated and is integral to expanding the minds of pupils, exposing them to other cultural conventions and new ways of doing things.

One in 10 students in the Scottish independent sector are boarders, with more than 1,500 students travelling from over 50 countries outside of the UK to take up places in our schools. Half of all our foreign students come to Scottish independent schools from European Economic Area countries, with the remainder travelling from other parts of the world, including mainland China, Hong Kong and the Middle East.

What’s truly enriching about the boarding experience is the ability to live and learn alongside people who offer a different outlook on the world. Pupils will have their current thinking and values challenged by people with fresh perspectives. These opportunities are hugely beneficial in life beyond the school gates – researchers exploring how we make decisions have found the more diverse the group, the better the outcome.

While the new growth in the establishment of Scottish independent schools overseas demonstrates the clear appetite for our unique brand of education, nothing compares to the authentic experience of immersing oneself in the rich heritage, unique surroundings and personal ethos of our schools. The student experience is amplified with the opportunity to partake in subjects and activities that may be otherwise unavailable in a young person’s home country.

In Scotland, students are fortunate that they can study in either an urban or rural setting and undertake a diverse range of subjects and qualifications to set them on their desired career path, whether it is Higher, A-Levels or the International Baccalaureate. All independent schools have an extensive extra-curricular programme which includes sport, music, drama and outdoor education. catering to an array of interests.

Many schools have a strong global citizenship element and place an emphasis on representing a diverse range of faiths and beliefs, teaching students to understand they are part of a larger, worldwide context and to value difference. The vast majority are involved with cultural exchange programmes such as Erasmus+ and have bilateral links with other countries and schools.

On leaving the EU, it is crucial that we protect our global reputation for openness and promote our rich offering to international students who recognise Scotland as a premier education destination.

John Edward is Director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools