Good morning everyone, thank you very much for inviting me to speak with you.
It is wonderful to have the opportunity to speak about the importance of international higher education. It’s a fascinating part of my report at the Department for Education, and I think its significance has become increasingly important over the last few weeks.
The opportunity for people, especially young people, to study in other countries, to weigh their views and experiences against those of other cultures as they develop their minds and lives, is extraordinarily important at all times. But as we see the world begin to fracture once again into different spheres of influence and thought, that importance grows.
This audience doesn’t need me to tell you that UK universities have a very important role to play, not only because our country is one of the great world leaders in student recruitment, not only because foreign students’ appetite for living and the study in our country is increasing, but more centrally due to what our universities represent.
I am thinking, of course, of exceptional traditions of academic excellence. But what that excellence has done, what has allowed it to flourish and survive is freedom. Freedom is today under attack in the world. Nowhere more violently and blatantly than in the Ukraine.
We should all be proud that the UK continues to be at the forefront of international efforts to support resistance to tyranny in Ukraine. In my department we are also trying to contribute our grain of sand.
We have been working closely with the higher education sector and the entire government to ensure that Ukrainian students are supported during this difficult time.
I am pleased to say that this includes new visa concessions announced by the Home Office for Ukrainian citizens, including students, which will give them the opportunity to extend their license or switch to a postgraduate visa without having to leave the UK.
We recognize that the current uncertainty will mean that many students may experience additional challenges and I want to thank the HE Sector very much for the remarkable work they have already done to support Ukrainian students, from providing crisis counselors to making student hardship funds available for students. who need financial assistance, to simply showing friendship.
So before I continue, I would like to emphasize my gratitude to the industry for all of their hard work and all of the support that I know they will provide in the coming months.
It is a great testament to you that the UK continues to be the destination of choice for so many international students.
Its world-class reputation, its world-renowned teaching, its cutting-edge research and innovation.
Our international education strategy, published in 2019 and updated last year, is critical to protecting and enhancing your reputation.
At the heart of this strategy are two main ambitions that we want to achieve by 2030.
Firstly, increasing the value of our educational exports to £35 billion a year. And secondly, hosting at least 600,000 international higher education students in the UK each year.
Well, we are already fulfilling these two ambitions.
In 2019, the value of education exports was estimated at £25.2 billion, an increase of more than 8% in just one year.
I was incredibly proud that we met our international student recruitment ambition for the first time in 2020/21, almost 10 years early, with 605,130 international students studying in the UK.
Clearly, as you have shown, the sky is the limit. But now that you’ve burst into the sky, where’s next?
There are several parts to this answer, but the first and most obvious is that we in government must work with you to support every part of the international student journey, from application to employment.
This includes streamlining the application process for prospective students, raising awareness of private financing options, and seeking best practices in graduate employability.
There is much more to be done, but doing these things will ensure that the UK remains highly attractive to international students.
There are, of course, challenges.
We cannot ignore the uncertainties of recent years, further demonstrating the need for our institutions to diversify their international student intake and expand the regions from which they recruit.
We are already seeing progress, we have seen notable increases in the intake of students from our priority countries. On 20/21, participants from Nigeria increased by 89% and those from India by 27%. This is a brilliant endorsement of our enhanced student offering, including the Postgraduate Pathway.
Not only to ensure sustainable future recruitment, but also to ensure that we continue to benefit from the diversity, fresh ideas and new perspectives that international students bring to our campuses.
As you well know, the UK’s international higher education offer is about more than just international students. You represent leading research institutions in the world. Its Transnational Education, or TNE, programs mean that students from all over the world can access an education in the UK, wherever they are.
As we continue to reshape our post-16 sector, I believe there is great potential for sustainable growth for TNE.
Education exports from UK HE transnational education have grown rapidly in value, almost doubling in 10 years, from £350m in 2010 to £690m in 2019.
I want the UK to remain at the forefront of innovation in the provision of NETs, especially when we look at what we have learned in recent years.
The work of the Champion of International Education, Sir Steve Smith, is integral to the continued success in growing the UK’s educational exports. I know many of you will know Steve. I hope you continue to engage with him on this exciting mission.
It is working in five priority countries: India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam to open up export growth opportunities for UK education.
We want to offer all our support to the exports and trade of education.
As you know, the UK now has an independent trade policy, which we are using to shape the future of UK trade around the world, bringing benefits to the education sector and to the countries we trade with.
We are very much looking forward to supporting the industry as best we can in the negotiations.
So we are working with the Department of International Trade promoting education on Free Trade Agreements and ensuring that the opinions of the sector are represented.
Now more than ever, the Government seeks to strengthen our relationships with partners and allies around the world.
This is all part of our ambition for a global Britain, with strong and close relationships on every continent, upholding the rules-based international order, defending and promoting British values around the world.
Education, as one of the UK’s soft power strengths, has a critical role to play in achieving this ambition.
One such example is the 2030 roadmap for future India-UK relations launched last year by the Prime Minister and Indian Prime Minister Modi.
Through this ambitious roadmap, we will elevate the India-UK relationship and guide our cooperation for the next ten years, covering all aspects of our multifaceted relationship through education export.
In 2020/2021, the UK welcomed 53,015 Indian students to the UK. I look forward to building on this success and our broader relationship with India.
Despite the shock and uncertainty of the last two years, I am proud to say that our collective global efforts are supporting a new generation of young people to access and enjoy life-changing international experiences wherever they study.
Aptly named for Alan Turing, father of computing and World War II code breaker who studied for a time in the United States, our Turing Scheme is truly global, and this year’s participants plan to travel from their schools, colleges and universities to study and work. worldwide in more than 150 destinations.
Through study or work experience abroad, we want to help people from all over the UK experience the world. To support this ambition, we have confirmed funding for the continuation of the Turing Scheme for the next 3 years, including £110 million for the 2022/23 academic year.
My department has been promoting Turing around the world with ministerial debates in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, India and other Commonwealth countries.
It has been great to see such positive engagement, and I look forward to seeing how UK institutions will continue to build and strengthen collaborative partnerships abroad as we move into the second year of the scheme.
We have now announced plans for applications for the second year of the scheme, which will provide funding for mobilities in the 2022-23 academic year.
I urge institutions wishing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Scheme to register their interest now on the Scheme’s website and start preparing their offers.
I am extremely proud of the work that the higher education sector and the Government have accomplished over the past year.
As we move into the future, the positive lessons we have learned from the past year will play a crucial role in growing the UK’s educational offerings and in strengthening the UK’s global agenda.
I firmly believe in the power of education to help us solve global challenges.
When I graduated (a long time ago), the Vice Chancellor said words to the effect of “some may view our ceremony today as arcane. I hope you see it as an event that connects you with the greatest tradition of free thought and inquiry to be found anywhere in the world. I hope you are proud of that and seek to preserve and protect it for future generations.”
I want more international students to come to the UK not just because it’s good for our economy, not just because it’s good for those universities’ balance sheets, but because it will allow students from all over the world to learn at our remarkable universities that we continue to preserve and protect. , for the world, the greatest traditions of free thought and research.
Thank you for listening and thank you for everything you do.