The government has released the report of Professor Sir Charles Bean of the London School of Economics, outlining his independent review of UK economic statistics. The report acknowledges the challenges of data-led policy in key areas, including international education. As the UK’s fifth largest export this area is crucial to the future growth of the economy. The report highlights: “Estimates of migration, tourism, and educational exports are all largely based on surveying individuals in air, sea and tunnel ports which can be subject to measurement and sampling error.” The report suggests: “ONS [i.e. the Office for National Statistics] might consider supplementing these methods with greater use of administrative data in order to improve the size of the sample and quality of the data.”
Responding to the report’s publication, Graham Able, Chair of Exporting Education UK (ExEd), said:
“We welcome the report’s recognition of the fact that better statistics are needed on the UK’s educational exports, in order to inform the development of evidence-led government policies which effectively support this sector as a vital contributor to our exports economy, and help realise its huge growth potential.” He added: “We would strongly recommend that improved statistics in this area need to go beyond the increase in the size of the sample and quality of UK entrance and exit data, suggested by the report.
“The most recent estimates by BIS suggest that the education sector is worth some £18 billion in ‘exports’ per year to our economy, making education the fifth largest services export sector in the UK. However, there is currently no body that regularly and reliably collects statistics on the total value to the UK economy of the entirety of the educational export sector (which includes higher education institutions, public further education colleges, private colleges, English language colleges, schools, and education technology and awarding bodies, as well as transnational education).
“ExEd wrote to Sir Charles while he was conducting his review, in order to emphasise the size of the educational exports sector and its key importance to the UK economy, educational culture and ‘soft power’ abroad. The letter outlined the government’s significant policymaking focus on the UK’s international education industry over the last six years. ExEd would strongly recommend that the Office for National Statistics should be charged with tracking the UK’s educational export sector more comprehensively, in order to ensure that policymaking in this area can be informed by accurate and detailed data.”
About Exporting Education UK
Exporting Education UK is a broad-based group of UK-based companies and organisations involved in education as an export (either educating foreign students in the UK or abroad) who have come together to promote the value of the sector to the UK and its contribution to the UK’s long term competitiveness in the global economy. The group is known as ExEd for short. The group currently has over 20 members, who span the full range of education from Pre-preps, Prep Schools, High Schools, Sixth Form Colleges, FE & HE Colleges, and Professional Colleges, all of whom are exemplars of UK education. ExEd’s secretariat is provided by Study UK.
The value of UK educational exports
The UK education export market is currently worth around £18 billion per year to the UK economy, with potential for year on year growth (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/international-education-strategy). Teaching international students also boosts the UK’s soft power abroad and gives British students a unique opportunity to interact with and understand those from different cultures.