“We have the best stable of brands in the business, complemented by the gift of the greatest IP asset in history: the English language.”
So said Damian Hinds, UK minister for Education, at an event convened to “showcase the UK government’s focus on supporting the education sector” and to officially launch the new international education strategy.
He was joined on stage in a ministerial double-act by Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox.
Fox referenced the fact that all but 15 countries in the world have some sort of touchpoint with UK education via qualifications delivered in-country or transnational services from universities.
A recent Pearson deal to deliver BTEC qualifications throughout Thailand was cited as testament to this.
“Britain stands on the brink of a new era”
Speaking of onshore business, Hinds noted, “International students make a vital contribution to the UK economy. In 2016, they brought in almost £12bn through tuition fees and living expenditure alone.”
Both underlined that international students are not only valued for their economic contribution but as a way of extending the UK’s cultural ties and soft power.
“Britain stands on the brink of a new era,” reminded Fox. “It’s an opportunity we intend to seize”.
And he made clear that if the government is to achieve its target of increasing export revenue from US$19 billion to US$35 billion, then it is “leaders like those in this room, not government, that must be at the forefront of achieving this ambition“.
He said that the strategy – which was broadly applauded for its numerical goal to host 600,000 students, although some said post-study work rights were not generous enough – was developed in cooperation with education providers across the UK.
But not all had rejoiced at the strategy detail, with those in the UK ELT sector lamenting that no option to switch visas from short-term to long-term study in the country had been considered.
Another point of note during the evening was that Hinds earmarked edtech as an area the government wanted to rocket-propel.
“We have more to do to maximise our position,” he said, explaining that the government would be defining 10 new “edtech challenges” to galvanise industry action.
This would mean “helping to forge new connections between technology innovators and their users, through the creation of testbed schools and colleges”; and linking suppliers and users in innovative trial set-ups for new tech.
“For example, through support for BESA’s LendED platforms – a try-before-you-buy service linking edtech companies and educators,” said Hinds.