Magazine article Times Higher Education

Scottish Claims of Foreign Finance Allure 'Embellished', Say Analysts: News

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Scottish Claims of Foreign Finance Allure 'Embellished', Say Analysts: News

Article excerpt

Economists dispute degree to which universities attract overseas investors. David Matthews writes.

Universities Scotland has been accused by economists of "misrepresenting" figures in a report that claims to show the importance of its members in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

On 31 August, the body that represents higher education institutions north of the border released a report that states that Scotland's universities had been cited as a "major determinant in as many as 45 per cent" of such projects.

An accompanying press release puts it slightly differently: universities "play a role" in "close to half" of FDI projects, its headline says.

The report's evidence for this is a Financial Times survey of FDI projects which found that 39 per cent of those who responded said that a "skilled workforce" was one of the reasons why they set up in Scotland.

Another 6 per cent said they had chosen their location to be near university researchers, according to Grow, Export, Attract, Support: Universities' Contribution to Scotland's Economic Growth.

But Nigel Driffield, a professor at Aston University Business School with a research interest in FDI, pointed out that many of the projects "require technical skills that are often non-degree level".

Therefore, claiming that universities could take all the credit for a skilled workforce in Scotland was making a link "more directly than the data support", he said.

Another economist, who did not wish to be named, said: "Not for the first time, a press office appears to have misrepresented/hyped up what the report says. …

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