The principals of Edinburgh's four universities have unveiled radical plans for an international student village in the city to underpin Scotland's Fresh Talent initiative.
John Archer, principal of Heriot-Watt University and the new convener of Universities Scotland, said the initiative aimed to attract the brightest and the best from overseas to help combat Scotland's declining birthrate.
A major issue, however, was housing, because increasing numbers of postgraduates wished to bring partners and families and could not find suitable accommodation in student residences.
Professor Archer is backed by the principals of Edinburgh and Napier universities and Queen Margaret University College in proposing building an "international student house" for postgraduates. And they suggest the perfect location would be the city's waterfront urban regeneration project on the shores of the Firth of Forth, two miles from the city centre. The project is a partnership between the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian (Seel), which Professor Archer chairs.
The principals have called for financial support from the council, Seel and the Scottish Executive, and believe the rest could come via a public-private partnership.
Professor Archer said that the accommodation, for up to 400 postgraduates and their families, would have to have amenities such as shops and a health centre nearby. "Fresh Talent is an initiative that's trying to take shape at the moment," Professor Archer said. "We could create something pretty exciting and give a very positive, visible signal that (Scotland) takes Fresh Talent seriously."
A spokesperson for the Scottish Executive said: "We are looking at this proposal with Seel and the higher education sector and considering providing funding towards cost of a business case."
She added that Fresh Talent was all about looking at ways to attract more people to live and work in Scotland. "This proposal would encourage talented academics and researchers to put down roots in Scotland."
Sir David Lane, the internationally known cancer researcher, has been named Scotland's first Fresh Talent ambassador as he leaves for Singapore on a two-year secondment. Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister, said: "Sir David's reputation and his work have attracted some of the world's brightest and best to our country."