By Nicola Hancox, Editor of Study Travel Magazine

At the time of writing, voting was well under-way in the Scottish independence referendum. Ninety seven per cent of the electorate are reported to have registered to vote – exceptionally high for a referendum – and a declaration will be made tomorrow between 6.30-7.30 GMT.

There has been plenty of media coverage in the lead up to the campaign and it’s made for interesting ‘water-cooler’ chat (or in our case, Nespresso machine chat) in the past week or so: namely, what would it be like if Scotland were to disassociate itself from the UK? Would there be an impact be on its international student recruitment? Scotland’s higher education sector attracts a small number of overseas students, but the Scottish government’s pledge to reintroduce post-study work visa for graduates if independence is realised – is a trump card. It’s safe to say the UK government’s negative rhetoric regarding immigration and student work rights has impacted one of its largest exports, and there is an obvious implication that an independent Scotland would court the study travel industry, rather than alienate it for political and re-election purposes.

Higher education has featured firmly in our news pages this week with the latest OECD indicators report revealing that while HE mobility is growing it has slowed in comparison with previous years. Fewer scholarships/grants and budget limitations are thought to be at the heart of the deceleration. However, “Limited labour market opportunities in students’ countries of origin may increase the attractiveness of studying abroad as a way to gain a competitive edge, and thus boost student mobility,” suggested the report. So an independent Scotland could well attract more international students with the promise of work rights and eased restrictions.

Setting higher education aside for a moment, I would like to draw readers’ attention to this week’s interesting View from the Desk of piece which looks at the impact the Ebola pandemic has had on the outbound student market in Africa. Our agent contributor notes that the disease has largely been contained (in Nigeria at least) with, so far, little effect on business. However, there have been calls to delay high school commencements until the disease has been completely eradicated and this could have a knock-on effect on outbound business in time, he says.

As was the case with the H1NI virus and Sars pandemics a few years ago, however, some countries are just not willing to take any risks. It has been reported that provincial governments in China are not granting visas to students that derive from affected countries.

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