UK govt announces new international education strategy

Announced today by the education secretary Damian Hinds and the international trade secretary Liam Fox, the strategy includes a number of measures to boost the sector’s role in the global market as the country prepares to leave the EU.

“As we prepare to leave the EU it is more important than ever to reach out to our global partners and maximise the potential of our best assets – that includes our education offer and the international students this attracts,” Hinds said in a statement.

Among the key points of the strategy is an extension of the post-study work visa “to ensure the UK continues to attract and welcome” international students, and plans to improve the visa process and support student employability.

Included in the immigration white paper announced in late 2018, the new policy will give bachelor’s and master’s graduates six months and PhDs a year of post-study work leave.

Other propositions include the appointment of a new International Education Champion to develop global partnerships, tighter collaboration across government department on international education policy and a call for sector groups to bid into the £5m GREAT Challenge Fund to promote the UK internationally.

Hinds said, “There is no limit to our potential and this strategy will help cement our status as a world-leader in education, while creating real benefits for the country and students across the globe.”

The strategy plans to take the number of international students in UK universities from the current 458,000 to 600,000 and to raise the £20bn a year generated by education export and transnational activities to £35bn over the next 10 years.

It will focus on “not only retaining links with Europe,” but strengthening the profile of the education sector in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“From English Language Training in Latin America to Higher Education partnerships in Vietnam, trade minister Graham Stuart and I have encountered a remarkable amount of enthusiasm for British education goods and services across the globe,” Fox said in a statement.

There will also be a focus on improving availability of data on education exports to drive performance and map out further opportunities.

The new strategy was first announced in January at the World Education Forum, after months of consultation between the government and key industry organisations had taken place.

“Over the last six months we have been in regular dialogue with the Department for International Trade and the Department for Education regarding this strategy, facilitating ‘soft’ consultation with the sector, and we are pleased to note the cross-government approach announced today,” Universities UK president Janet Beer said in a statement, commenting on the announcement.

“I particularly welcome the ambitious target to grow the number of international students to 600,000 by 2030 which sends a strong message of welcome.”

Another point that Beer praised was the planned improvements to the visa regime, including the extension of PSW to six months for bachelor’s and master’s and one year for PhDs. However, she noted, UUK will keep advocating for a more generous provision.

“We would like the government to go further and extend this opportunity to at least two years and we will continue to urge them on this point,” she said.

English UK chief executive Sarah Cooper welcomed the announcement, praising the “holistic view of the industry” with the recognition of the importance of the ELT sector to the whole industry.

“The UK English Language Teaching industry is clearly seen as pivotal to the wider international education sector in this strategy, with a welcome recognition for the first time of the part it plays in introducing UK education to the wider world,” she said in a statement.

“We are excited by the opportunities this bold strategy outlines, both for the promotion of the UK as the premier destination for English language learning, but also the support planned for growing the export of UK ELT quality and expertise to countries across the globe.”

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