Whilst international students attending British education institutions is not a new phenomenon, two things have changed in recent years which require us to rethink how we promote and nurture this sector.
The numbers of globally mobile students has grown significantly – and continues to grow- making education a significant British export. Research for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills puts its current value at over £14 billion.
Immigration has become a very hot political issue and international students, who are in the main temporary visitors to the UK, have got mixed into this debate in a way which is having a negative impact on government policy and public attitudes towards international students.
Many representatives of the education sector have worked tirelessly to try to redress the debate; the universities in particular have made enormous efforts.
After he had become alarmed at the media coverage in China of perceived changes in our government’s policy towards international students, Fraser White, Executive Chairman of Dulwich College Management International, contacted me and we co-authored a report entitled ‘Education: A great British export?’ in February, 2012. We hoped this would be a constructive contribution to these efforts. We were surprised by the range and strength of interest from the wide range of organisations involved in exporting education (from Prep schools, FE and HE Colleges, language schools and others) in finding a way of working together to promote the case for the significant contribution of international students to UK plc.
And so Exporting Education UK (ExEd UK for short) was born. 15 founder member organisations formally came together in September 2012 which have (at the time of writing) grown to 22. We believe that by working together across all parts of the education export sector we can make a compelling case and we will be working to ensure that this case is understood by policy makers, the media and, ultimately, the public.