Britain risks losing out to global competitors on soft power race

Britain is losing ground in the race to maximise its soft power because we don’t understand how to harness it, according to Exporting Education UK (ExEdUK), a coalition of British education exporters.

Graham Able, Chairman of ExEdUK said: “For fifty or more years Britain has taken its influence in the world for granted. Influence and soft power work in a much more sophisticated way in today’s world. We know intuitively that decision makers’ connections with Britain influence how they interact with us in business and international relations, yet shockingly there has been little work done by government to quantify that impact and understand how we can harness it better.”

He added: “The current Lords inquiry into soft power shows that there is a growing recognition of its importance to our future. Now is the time for the government commission serious research into how soft power is fostered and quantify the benefits which it generates otherwise our global competitors will outpace us.”

ExEdUK partnered with Wild ReSearch to look at the issue of soft power and British education. Our report,

Education and British Soft Power – the unexplored connection, found that there is very limited data on the development of relationships with non-UK alumni and how they benefit British economic, cultural or geo-political fortunes.

The report takes the Who’s Who 2013 guide as a data starting point to demonstrate that even a very limited, superficial examination starts to show how alumni of British education play leading and decision making roles in academia, politics and business which bring them into contact with Britain over many years.

The research found over four hundred entries for non-UK nationals indicated that they had received at least a proportion of their education at a British education institution (school,

university undergraduate or post-graduate). Of those, 42% played a leading role in academia, research or medicine; 22% played a leading role in government or international relations (including ambassadors and several prime ministers); and 10% were in banking, business or finance.

British education alumni are also represented in the ranks of Nobel Prize winners and Central Bank Governors around the world.

Commenting on the research, Mark Jeynes, ExEdUK Deputy Chairman said: “Whilst this research has a number of limitations, it demonstrates that the links exist. What we don’t know is the full extent of these links, how their benefits have been manifested and how we create more of them. If the government are to create an effective policy framework which supports the fostering of these links to benefit Britain’s position in the world it is imperative that the knowledge gap is filled and filled fast.”

Link to report