Foreign aid and higher education

lordnortonOn Wednesday, I spoke in a debate in the Lords on higher education.  You can read the speech hereI focused on the recommendations of the Higher Education Commission, which I c0-chair, in its report on regulating higher education.  The present system is too disparate, complex and wilting under pressure from significant developments, including the new funding regime and the entry of new providers. What is needed is not more regulation, but better regulation.  Our report offers a new, coherent scheme that maintains pluralism within the system.

However, I ended the speech with a free-standing point.  It concerns how we spend foreign aid.  There is in my view a strong case for devoting more of the aid budget to offering bursaries to study at UK universities.  That would benefit the nations receiving the aid: they would acquire more university graduates who can contribute to their economic and political development.  It would benefit UK universities, not least at a time when there is likely to be a decline in recruitment of overseas students.  It would also benefit the UK in that having UK-educated graduates around the globe is the greatest form of soft power that we have.  It would also mean that the aid was being put to its intended use and not siphoned off by a particular regime.  It would, as I argued, create a virtuous circle.  I suspect even critics of foreign aid would have difficulty decrying its use in this way.  It is something that merits being pursued.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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